Creating a ‘safe space’ in Castlemaine

ELM team members Rachel Stewart, Rosie Annear and Jeremy Forbes invite community members to be part of an initiative to create a 'Safe Space' in Castlemaine.

Suicide prevention and postvention group ELM (Every Life Matters) has received funding to create a new ‘Safe Space’ in Castlemaine to support community members struggling with mental health issues.

The dedicated volunteers are now on the hunt for a suitable venue for the new initiative and members of the community who would be interested in being part of the working group to make the important new project a reality.

ELM is also seeking community members with lived experience who may like to be trained to act as staff in the new space, which is envisaged will open around March next year.

The new ELM Castlemaine Safe Space is being funded by grants from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and Mount Alexander Shire Council.

ELM treasurer Rachel Stewart has been leading the push to establish the service and said the space would be modelled on the New South Wales Ministry of Health initiative ‘Towards Zero Suicides – Alternatives to Emergency Department Presentations’ initiative, which has seen the establishment of 20 safe spaces across NSW.

“However, our local space will be more geared toward anyone who has any kind of ‘mental health struggles’ or problems, who would like to talk to a trained peer who has had any type of similar struggles themselves,” Rachel said.

“We aim to offer assistance to all, before thoughts around suicide may occur, or if they already have. All are welcome to attend our space, with no appointment necessary,” she said.

The Castlemaine Safe Space is being co-designed by Roses in the Ocean who worked with the NSW Ministry of Health in designing the new NSW Safe spaces.

ELM chair Rosie Annear said the lived experience peers would be trained to respond effectively based on their own knowledge and empathy.

“We are currently calling for working group members who would like to help make decisions on how the space should be set up, what we need to consider and how we can be most effective to help all who may need or want it,” she said.

“It will be a very special place where there is no judgement and people can come for help and early intervention before things get to crisis point.”

The new space would likely be open for around six hours a week initially, over three sessions of two hours.

ELM deputy chair and HALT (Hope Assistance Local Tradies) founder Jeremy Forbes said they wanted to create a space that was a welcoming place for people from all walks of life.

“Whether you’re a tradie, sportsperson, young person or senior, it will be a great place for those taking the first step to seek help with their mental health,” he said.

“A warm and welcoming non-clinical environment where they can chat to a trained person with lived experience of mental health or suicidality.”

If you would like to get involved as a working group member, trained peer worker or focus group member you can email