Posted Monday 23 December 2019

Gippsland locals might have noticed some extra greenery in their towns in recent months and it is all for a good cause.

“Happiness Trees” have been planted at Wonthaggi, Mirboo North, Bruthen, Warragul and Sale as part of a community-lead project to shine a light on mental health and wellbeing.

Burra Foods Manufacturing Services Manger Danny Wilson was part of the six-person team which initiated the Happiness Tree project through the Gippsland Community Leadership Program.

“A Happiness Tree is a specific purpose-built place that people or groups can use to raise awareness and promote different ways of looking after one another’s mental health and wellbeing,” he said.

“It’s a conversation starter. We wanted to use a tree to signify a place in a public space where our community can take time out, relax, consider and plan things that make us happy that we can look forward to.”

Mr Wilsons said his group believed a tree encouraged people to get outdoors but also provided a legacy.

“Talking about mental health and wellbeing can be difficult, this project desires to break down these challenges and make mental health and wellbeing conversations easier,” he said. “This project intends to highlight that simple acts of getting-out and exploring our local parks can make you feel happy and can improve your mental health and wellbeing.”

This Happiness Tree project is also being considered by the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone and Mr Wilson said the group had spoken with mental health organisations such as Headspace and Beyond Blue.

Mr Wilson was one of 27 participants in this year’s Gippsland Community Leadership Program, a course designed to empower locals to better serve their community. The course has been running for 27 years and has more than 600 alumni.

As part of the program participants were asked to create and deliver a project that would benefit Gippsland.

Sponsored by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation to complete the leadership course, Mr Wilson said he was grateful for Burra’s support and it showed the manufacturers’ commitment to the community.