How Parishes can Help with COVID Recovery

by Robbie Lloyd

Before churches became a central part of the formal education system, by establishing schools, early child care centres and then Registered Training Organisations for adult education, they were informal places of social support and lifetime learning. Local networks spread out from the parish to provide all sorts of new introductions, help and even jobs. 

Now COVID has made us all acutely aware that “we need to be therefor each other,” whether physically distanced or not, and we need social solidarity and active reaching out to one another more than ever.

This has been missing in our society since everything got individualized over the past decade. We are now consumers first and citizens second. We go on-line, buy and sell, and even receive our aged and disability care in individualised services “that come to you.” 

One way parishes can actively assist the COVID recovery process is by becoming part of, or lobbying to establish, local Recovery Colleges. These are Adult Community Education (ACE) centres which practice Lifelong and Lifewide Learning, only they specialise in celebrating the Lived Experience of people who have challenges, such as with their mental health, disability, trauma, or workplace injuries.  

Recovery Colleges have been operating around the world for many years, and in parts of Australia for over a decade. They combine the benefits of Community Mental Health support services with Adult Community Education, valuing Lived Experience alongside the expertise of Clinicians and Adult Educators in Co-Design & Co-Delivery, of programs for young people and older adults living with challenges. 

We know that Australia’s State-based health systems are groaning under the weight of rolling waves of COVID19 demands, and their flow-on impacts & costs across society in economic, social and wellbeing terms. Recovery Colleges provide easy ways to keep people out of hospital and GPs waiting rooms & clinics, and we desperately need them right now. 

Most communities have the components to establish Recovery Colleges, they just need to be coordinated to bring lived experience of consumers & carers alongside clinical primary & allied health and adult education services – whether through Parishes and their associated Schools, nearby Community Colleges, Libraries Information & Neighbourhood Centres, Men’s & Women’s Sheds etc.

As well as Learning & Life Development with Skills for returning to productive life in society, people needing MH & Social & Emotional Wellbeing support can use Recovery Colleges to avoid the revolving door to the clinic, and to begin building new futures in relationship with others who know how they feel.