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Curious Grace drop-in centre launches

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Peta and Toni at the Welcome to Curious Grace drop-in centre which encourages companionship, conversation, and creativity. Photo: Supplied
Peta and Toni at the Welcome to Curious Grace drop-in centre which encourages companionship, conversation, and creativity. Photo: Supplied

Imagine a bustling community hub, nestled in the heart of a neighbourhood in a local parish, where neighbours can walk in freely and find a welcoming space dedicated to nurturing their mental health and well-being. Welcome to Curious Grace—a drop-in centre model that celebrates lived experience and encourages companionship, conversation, and creativity.

Launched on March 3rd as a pilot program at St Canice Catholic Parish in Rushcutters Bay, individuals were able to walk in and discover that they are not alone. The Curious Grace drop-in centre at St Canice’s welcomes individuals from all walks of life, and is staffed by a dedicated team of trained parishioners turned volunteers, each offering unique experiences and expertise.

In the vast landscape of mental healthcare, one undeniable truth emerges: the need for accessible, community-based support is paramount. The statistics paint a stark reality: in any given year, one in five Australians experience poor mental health, yet less than half receive adequate treatment and support.

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The traditional model of mental health care, with its long waitlists, financial strains, and rigid appointment systems, often fails to meet the needs of those most vulnerable in our communities. That’s where Curious Grace steps in—a proactive approach that brings mental health support directly to the grassroots level, within the familiar embrace of our local parishes.

Unlike most healthcare settings, Curious Grace drop-in centres are designed to be accessible to all, offering a welcoming safe haven free of judgement and time constraints. Whether someone is experiencing a crisis or simply needs someone to talk to, they can find solace and support at their local Curious Grace drop-in centre without delay.

One of the most powerful aspects of the Curious Grace drop-in centre is the opportunity for peer support and companionship. Individuals with lived experience of mental illness, provide invaluable empathy, understanding, and guidance to those navigating similar challenges. This shared experience fosters a profound sense of belonging and empowerment, creating a supportive community where individuals can learn from each other’s journeys.

Whether engaging in the buzzing hub of peer-led creative activities, from knitting clubs to friendly chess games, or simply enjoying a cup of coffee, everyone is welcome in the Curious Grace space.

By embedding mental health support within the fabric of communities, Curious Grace drop-in centres can help normalise conversations about mental health and reduce stigma. When neighbours, friends, and fellow parishioners openly engage with the reality of mental illness and its struggles, it sends a powerful message that seeking help is an act of courage, not weakness.

Curious Grace is not just a program—it’s a movement set to transform the way mental healthcare is delivered in our local communities.

This has been a long, yet, fulfilling voyage. Beginning as a small café operating in Mildura, Curious Grace has become much more: a beacon of hope for our most vulnerable community members.

The Curious Grace “Collective” consists of a team of skilled individuals, including those with lived experience of mental illness, conflict mediators, academics, local counsellors, alongside the founders of the Curious Grace Café. The Collective aims to spread the word that mental health is normal and should be celebrated; offering local parishes the opportunity to be trained and educated in each of these areas to open up their own Curious Grace drop-in centre.

As we continue this journey at St Canice’s and prepare to launch at All Saints in Liverpool later this year, we look forward to expanding our reach and ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. Anyone and everyone is welcome.

If you are interested in becoming involved through your parish or as a volunteer, please reach out to the Justice & Peace team at [email protected]

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