Debbie Knight, 2017 LiFE Award winner - Community Engagement (Individual)
In 2004 Debbie Knight lost a close friend to suicide. Her loss was just one case in a community which was becoming all too familiar with an issue being labelled as epidemic in the Mackay Region. As often happens, she and a group of friends got together with a view to raising awareness around suicide prevention. They did some fundraising and created the beginnings of a powerful and highly regarded organisation, Grapevine Group Mackay. Debbie has been with this group from the very beginning and in the past 13 years Grapevine has become a foundation stone which underpins the entire mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention movement in the Mackay region. The group's focus - and that which Debbie has campaigned strongly and consistently for - is education. In partnership with local community suicide awareness and fundraising body Run For Mi Life, as well as LifeLine and the nationally renowned Living Works, Grapevine brought to Mackay the highly regarded safeTALK and ASIST programs in 2014. In conjunction with the lobbying and research work conducted behind the scenes, Debbie was also the key driver in designing, constructing and then effectively disseminating a series of powerful awareness campaigns which were strategically published across mainstream, digital and social media platforms. The most prolific of these were the Grapevine Group's Christmas Awareness Campaigns. Through the pages of newspapers and via digital and social media platforms, everyday people in the Mackay region had unprecedented and easy-to-understand information about the signs and triggers, risks and times of need within the community. At a time when few media organisations would consider broaching the subject of suicide prevention around Christmastime, this campaign initially launched in 2011 amid a stong spike in the local suicide rate as the "12 Days of Suicide Prevention for Christmas". This campaign was then nominated as a finalist in the 2011 PANPA Newspaper of the Year National Advertising Campaign Award, an award recognised throughout the Asia-Pacific. Media organisations and other businesses engaged in the campaign adopted email signatures and produced a suite of in-house collateral. During the Christmas 2016-17 Campaign, these display advertisements and a suite of accompanying memes were viewed over 30,000 times. It was real, it was positive and it was compelling. It has stood the test of time and vast changes in the Mackay region's economic and social disposition. It has also been the backbone for Grapevine Group's website and exceptional social media presence. Hers is a commitment fuelled by a belief that every single member of a community has the right – and should have the means – to be empowered to understand and help those in need. And in a regional setting – where the rules of metropolitan, state-wide and national coverage are diluted and seldom applicable – making connections and maintaining them over time and social change, is not just vital, but in this case, it is life saving.