Building Community Wellbeing – A big idea in a little town

In March 2020 I began work on an incredible community wellbeing project. I didn’t know it at the time but staying in Tasmania when covid-19 hit would be a pivotal point in my life and change the lives of many people in the small community of Break O’Day.


My role at Break O’Day Council was ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator’. My priority was to understand the community and develop a plan to enable wellbeing and promote mental health. I emerged with a better understanding of what community wellbeing is, the pathways (and challenges) in developing it, and how local government is beautifully positioned to enable community wellbeing.


Here’s how we developed our community wellbeing project in Tasmania, gained substantial funding, and kicked it off… all within 12 months. 

Community Wellbeing initiatives to learn from

Community wellbeing is vital for individuals, families and whole organisations thrive. Public health researchers Wiseman and Brasher reflect this in their definition: “Community wellbeing is the combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish and fulfill their potential.”


My first step was to understand what community wellbeing initiatives had worked, and what had been learned in the process. I looked at Maroondah’s communities of wellbeing and learned from their vast experience how to begin gently and build energy for change. They started small and have had brilliant success gaining funding and building momentum for positive change. Have a look at


Then I spoke with the founder of Foundations to Flourish who shared their strength of community connections and their experience in creating positive change from the ground up. It’s an incredibly inspiring story and continues to create strong bonds and community wellbeing on King Island. Check out


Next, I connected with a project in Midland, Michigan. They have been incredibly successful and trained over 100 leaders to become wellbeing advocates and champions. These leaders developed their own wellbeing initiatives that rippled out into the community to continue to create positive change in years to come. Their project is at


These are just a few of the projects I looked at. But by this stage I was getting really inspired about what was possible.

Understanding the community

Now I had a better understanding of community wellbeing initiatives, I needed to learn more about the community I was living in. I had cups of tea with people from all over town. I met with business owners, yoga teachers, parents, psychologists, principles, councillors, fishermen, play groups, retired people, community groups, baristas, athletes and many more community members.


What I learned was our community was doing wellbeing well. Many people hiked, socialised, chopped wood (which is a huge part of Tasmanian culture), gardened, surfed, played golf, volunteered etc. They really were doing all the right things, they just didn’t have a language or understanding that their activities were contributing to their wellbeing or inspiring positive change in their community. I thought that developing this wellbeing literacy would be key to improving wellbeing in the Break O’Day Community.


Historically, there had been a strong focus in the community around suicide prevention. Understanding around mental illness had dramatically improved and systems had been established to deal with the trauma surrounding suicide. However, there was still a gap in how to nurture and promote mental health and wellbeing. My priority was to help the community develop a better knowledge around wellbeing and to learn to do it collectively, as well as their existing individual activities.  


Our Community Wellbeing Project

I began within the council, finding staff and Councillors that were passionate about mental health and helping them see the benefits of promoting wellbeing. Once we had sparked an interest, I began work on a Council Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan to share our vision.


Then, my daughter, sitting by the lake one day said “Mum, if you won ten million dollars, what would you do?” At the time I was in the midst of researching community wellbeing and writing our wellbeing plan. Without skipping a beat or thinking too deeply, I said something along the lines of “I’d train up people in this community to love wellbeing as much as we do.”


That was the seed that made me start believing that it was possible to create a big change in this tiny community. I knew the options and scouted out grants and found one that might fit. Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) had just opened a Covid recovery round focusing on community initiatives. The stars were beginning to align. 


We developed our community wellbeing project as a three-year pilot project. It was evidence-based and aimed to build capacity in Break O’Day community members to create connections, develop resilience and enhance wellbeing. Initial conversations with TCF led me to believe we were on the right track. When they suggested I forget the time and budget constraints, and simply build a project that I knew would enable community wellbeing, I knew we were onto something special.


In short, the project has three distinct stages each year, including;

  • Wellbeing focus groups to build energy in the community;
  • A four-month wellbeing certificate course for 30 community members to develop their own community wellbeing projects and
  • The development of a community collaborative to promote and nurture wellbeing into the future.


The project is being evaluated in collaboration with University of Tasmania to ensure we have data around the outcomes and to see if we are achieving our objective of enabling community wellbeing.


My hope for community wellbeing

The community wellbeing project in Break O’Day was a privilege to develop and work on. My hope was to impact individuals within the community in a positive way. I wanted to help them deepen social connections, learn how to manage their own wellbeing while supporting and inspiring other community members and to become more resilient together.


While people are key to any wellbeing initiative, my greatest desire for this project is to prove we have a successful framework to develop community wellbeing. If we’re able to establish our projects success, then we can share it with other councils, states and potentially around the globe to enable community wellbeing.


Just imagine the positive outcomes that could ripple out for years to come.   


If you’d like to know more about the project feel free to get in touch at jodie[@] or visit for more info.