Sun shines down on ARAFMI open day

Central Coast ARAFMI’s band, The Yakkallas performing at the Open Day

Central Coast ARAFMI hosted an open day recently, inviting the local community to join the official opening of new respite accommodation, and to acknowledge 45 years of promoting and supporting mental health of whole families on the Central Coast.

Over 130 people joined the celebrations on a sunny Wednesday at Lerida House, Narara.

Guests were able to participate and learn about existing and new carer and mental health support programs.

The open day highlighted Central Coast ARAFMI’s new program, The Trust, Beyond the Stigma, which is a program designed by participants, for participants.

Commencing in 2020, the program aims to promote social inclusion, mental health recovery, wellness and self-empowerment for people impacted by trauma and mental health.

Demonstrations of program activities such as ceramics, creative writing and macrame were showcased, and guests were invited to try their hand in the activities.

Central Coast ARAFMI’s new respite accommodation unit was officially opened to the community by Central Coast ARAFMI President, Anne Steadman, and CEO, Rhonda Wilson with a colourful ribbon cutting ceremony.

The newly expanded respite accommodation was built specifically to support carers and families impacted by mental health.

Along with offering a homely respite experience, guests have access to on-site mental health knowledge and support, as the site shares the location of Central Coast ARAFMI Carer and Family Support Program and The Trust, Beyond the Stigma.

The new building was made possible by the support of the NSW Government and Think Projects.

Speeches punctuated the open day festivities, recognising the critical role of families in caring for loved ones impacted by mental health issues.

The importance of community connection, and the unique role of Central Coast ARAFMI in supporting mental health in the community across the past 45 years was also acknowledged.

Central Coast ARAFMI fundraisers, volunteers and participants, shared their mental health recovery stories and shared heartfelt words of gratitude for the organisation.

A participant and activity facilitator of The Trust, said ARAFMI is a loving space.

“Here I am able to return to the community.

“It feels safe, and I’m welcomed and valued.

“It’s somewhere I can heal and grow,” the participant said.

The Trust Program Coordinator, Fiona Simpson, has worked alongside the community to build the unique program.

“Everyone matters and has a voice, we are continually listening to the needs and strengths of our participants,” Simpson said.

“We get to know people for who they are and where they want to be in the world, and offer options at their own pace,” she said.

“The Trust has developed a strong arts, wellness, training and educational program that focuses on mentoring.

“We support and train participants interested in how to write a program and lead an activity.

“We have had 94 people through this program so far, and continue to grow through our networks,” Simpson said.

The open day also exhibited documents from a new historical book written in partnership with Central Coast Council documenting the social history of Lerida House.

Guests enjoyed Devonshire tea and a healthy, free banquet provided by the dedicated volunteers and participants of The Trust, whilst pop-rock music by Central Coast ARAFMI participants and volunteer house band, The Yakkallas, entertained guests.

The team at Central Coast ARAFMI are immensely appreciative for the support of the local community in contributing towards the success of the open day, and for the glorious weather and fortunate timing that allowed the event to go ahead during 2021.

Since 1976, Central Coast ARAFMI has promoted mental health and well-being for whole families.

Their peer led, flexible model of care includes support groups, carers, counselling, education, social, recreational, volunteer and respite opportunities for individuals and the Central Coast Community.

The Trust, Beyond the Stigma program is funded by the Department of Social Studies.

For more information about Central Coast ARAFMI, visit

Media release, July 21
Central Coast ARAFMI