Strathbogie Shire Council

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Boomerang gang helping to beat isolation

Boomerang gang helping to beat isolation

Violet Town identity Robbie Rae hasn't seen her Melbourne-based family for well over six months due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the friendships she has formed through hand-making boomerang bags is helping her to manage the loneliness.

Robbie joined the group when it started three years ago, as a way to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags in her beloved town. However, the members quickly discovered the casual nature of the group, and the welcoming environment, was an ideal way to form new friendships.

Now, during the ongoing pandemic, the group are supporting each other's wellbeing at a time when isolation and a lack of connectedness are serious global issues. The close bonds they have formed have become social lifelines.

Robbie's story is featured on Strathbogie Shire Council's Strathbogie Story initiative (www.strathbogiestory.com) designed to tackle isolation and loneliness in our community.

The group of community-based volunteers meet regularly to create and distribute handmade cloth bags around the town, which are to be returned (or 'boomeranged') after use.

"Being in a group like this, if you did need that support – you know you could ring anyone and they would be on your doorstep to help you," Robbie said.

"I haven't seen my family since Christmas and it's really hard. I'm starting to really feel it now, but they're in Melbourne and I can't do anything about that."

The group formed after a suggestion from Robbie, who, during her travels around Victoria as a Tidy Towns judge, noticed how much the participants were benefiting from the boomerang bags initiative. Not only were they creating valuable community resources, they were enjoying one another's company.

"Often, these were groups of people who wouldn't normally mix. There were people from all walks of life who were forming friendships," she said.

"In Violet Town, we started from humble beginnings. We put out the word and now it's grown. It's lovely to hear all the busy voices in the building."

The boomerang bags created in Violet Town are distributed to the corner store, the produce store and to the service station.

Operations have now extended to include designer boomerang bags, which Robbie says have been so popular they cannot keep up with demand. More recently, and as equally well received, they've started to hand-make facemasks.

Robbie said their friendships were examples of why she adores Violet Town, where she has called home for the past 30 years.

"Personally, I'm still finding it difficult not having that face-to-face contact with my family," she said.

"I just love this little community and how everyone has time for each other. That mentality will help people through this difficult time, because people feel so supported."

Robbie's story is part of The Strathbogie Story project, which aims to assist those who may feel overcome with loneliness and isolation, as we continue to support each other through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The initiative encourages community connection through sharing the experiences of our local identities. View more stories www.strathbogiestory.com.

Violet Town volunteer Robbie Rae



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