Former cardio thoracic nurse Christine Boucher is focused on her community’s holistic wellbeing, determined to keep as many people as possible out of hospital beds like those she used to work around.
Her goal has been boosted by involvement in the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program and work with a group on the Be Well Gippsland project
Christine lives in Paynesville, in Victoria, and is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of her community. Having moved from Melbourne to Gippsland to be close to family, she exudes enthusiasm when she talks about where she now lives.
Paynesville is in an area framed by a lake system, Australia’s largest inland waterway, and not too far from Mt Hotham and the high country of the Victorian Alps.
“It is absolutely beautiful,” she said.
The region’s economic base rests on agriculture, tourism, and small businesses like Christine’s own health-based enterprise. All were hit hard by the drought, fire, flood and Covid story of recent years, when the need for communities to be increasingly resilient was obvious.
“The 2019 bushfires impacted our region and community on so many levels. Homes were lost, businesses closed, animals perished, and the community confronted with the trauma of a devastating blow,” Christine said.
“The remarkable thing was that even when faced with such a devastating natural disaster, the community came together and collaborated and supported each other with strength and spirit that I’ve never witnessed before,” she said.
“But there was a point where it felt like there was no chance of reprieve.”
This series of challenges pummeled her community and Christine provided her expertise to people flailing in a tide of overwhelming events. Doing so, she identified a shift in the thinking of decision makers.
“The pandemic forced a focus on wellbeing, and employers had to recognise that they needed to pay more attention to the health of their employees,” Christine said.
Healthier employees led to better communications, improved team dynamics, and boosted productivity.
Having recognised the need for community and individual resilience, Christine jumped at the chance to be involved in the LARC.
“I was initially attracted to the LARC program by the prospect of networking and connecting with like-minded people,” Christine said.
As a member of the Latrobe and Central Gippsland LARC cohort, Christine worked on the Be Well Gippsland community project which developed a wellbeing assessment, being trialled by sporting associations in her region, and ready to be tested in workplaces.
The project matched Christine’s expertise, and provided a learning opportunity which included access to leadership coaching, information, and insights to help the team work effectively on an issue relevant to their region.
LARC did provide Christine with the networking opportunities she had hoped for, and it had a great impact on her ability to contribute to her community’s future.
As a relative newcomer, she had reservations about her capacity to provide input and direction. Post-LARC, she felt that she could contribute her knowledge and experience and take her place at the leadership table.
“LARC gave me a boost of confidence and subsequent ability to speak with people and use my experience and knowledge,” Christine said.
“I have let go of imposter syndrome, and am on a mission, with a different mindset,” she said.
Now CEO of Wellness Worx, she has built up a business consulting with clients keen to tap into the benefits of having healthy employees. She is now partnering with a multinational company to deliver health and wellbeing initiatives to the farming and seafood industries and working with the Gippsland Agriculture Group on an initiative aiming to support healthy farming communities.
“My company is growing quickly and since I started LARC I have had many new opportunities develop and the confidence to move forward with them.
“My drive is to develop and deliver wellbeing programs that support not only mental health but physical, social and emotional wellbeing…building capacity and resilience so the community can go from surviving to thriving.”
Christine is considering joining a board in the health sector, adding to the mentorship role she is already playing.
“I will continue to mentor and nurture other women in business/leadership to develop their skills and support their professional and personal development,” she said.
Following her experience with LARC, Christine said she saw resilient communities as those with access to resources, support and networks that inspired optimal health and wellbeing.
She sees her role as one of delivering a program that implements wellness support officers on the ground sitting at the kitchen table with farmers, small business, fisher people, and supporting them to access health and wellbeing resources and action wellbeing initiatives.
“The goal is to intervene early, remove barriers to access healthcare in remote and regional towns and provide the wellbeing support that the individual needs,” Christine said.
Christine’s vision for Gippsland is for it to have adequate health and wellbeing access, support, and resources so that no one falls through the gaps or is denied healthcare due to their location.
“There is no glass ceiling; no task too big when you put your mind to it. Especially if with good heart and good intent,” she said.
“If I can keep one person out of hospital, I have had a good day.”