IPA Fellow honoured for suicide prevention work in regional, rural and remote Australia
Stephen Dowling, born and raised in an isolated mining town and IPA member for over 37 years, has received the ‘RUOK Conversation Champion’ of Australia Award at the inaugural Barbara Hocking Memorial Awards.
Mr Dowling was awarded for spreading the R U OK? message within regional, rural and remote communities and delivering real impact by encouraging others to have regular, meaningful conversations and invest more time in the people around them.
Held in Sydney by suicide prevention organisation R U OK?, the awards recognises efforts to create a world where we are all connected and protected from suicide across five categories; Workplace, Education, Community, Conversation Champion and Young Conversation Champion.
“We were truly inspired by the work of all the nominees for the inaugural Barbara Hocking Memorial Awards. The support of the community is invaluable in helping us to spread the R U OK? message and it’s important that we let them know how much we appreciate their contribution,” said Katherine Newton, CEO of R U OK?
Raised in an isolated mining town, Mr Dowling saw first-hand the impact of mental illness in remote locations. He is passionate about building the capacity of individuals, families, organisations and communities to provide peer-to-peer support.
Working with National Rural Independents, Mr Dowling has been able to identify high risk rural and remote communities around Australia and respond by running R U OK? Mateship and Mental Health First Aid workshops.
Since 2018, workshops have been delivered at Lake Bolac, Cobram, Balranald, Serpentine, Toowoomba, Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula, Dry Creek, York Peninsula, Esperance, Launceston, Emerald and Townsville.
"As we all know, achievements are never individual achievements. Over the years I've been supported by many people across Australia, in cities, regional, rural and remote areas,” Mr Dowling said while accepting the award.
“Importantly for me, I'd like to thank my wife Kimberley, our daughters Sarah and Rachael, especially for the times when the phone rings, as it regularly does, across weekends, meal times and after hours.”
Mr Dowling said that while he is proud to win this award, he looks forward to continuing to share and learn with others in an effort to reduce the risk of suicide, and encourage help-seeking behaviour.
The awards also celebrated the life of Barbara Hocking, OAM (d. 2016), one of Australia's leading advocates for people affected by mental illness.
Ms Hocking was the first full-time executive director of SANE Australia – a national charity working for a better life for all people affected by mental illness through education and support, applied research and campaigning for improved services and attitudes.
As well as being a director of SANE Australia, she also served on the boards of Mental Health Australia and R U OK?