New support to improve the mental health of people working in social and community sector organisations will soon be available in the seven flood-impacted local government areas of Northern Rivers NSW.

This means that individuals working or volunteering in not-for-profit groups, community organisations, charities, committees of management, incorporated associations etc in any of these seven Northern Rivers Local Government Areas affected by floods in February and March 2022 - Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Tweed, Ballina and Byron – will be able to access training and support.

Thanks to funding from the NSW Government, through the Department of Communities and Justice, The Xfactor Collective Foundation will provide free access to at least three days of mental health and trauma training, plus resources for frontline responders and local community leaders, to support them so they in turn can continue to support their communities.

The Supporting Frontline Responders in Northern Rivers NSW project began in October 2022, working collaboratively with local leaders on the ground to design practical sessions that address locally prioritised needs, and will continue through to June 2023.

Local Ballina woman and Founder of The Xfactor Collective Foundation, Julia Keady, applied for funding for the project through the NGO Flood Grant Program, an initiative of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

“I’ve seen firsthand the impact that the floods have had on our community and frontline responders – especially coming as they did on top of drought, then fires and the pressures of COVID - and I knew that the need for mental health support would be significant.

“That was reinforced last week at a meeting with local charities. We heard comments like “We have staff leaving the sector now from burning out. It’s just too hard.”; “We are doing a one-handed doggie paddle just to keep up.”; “The grant is helping us from not falling over from exhaustion.”; and “Often we burn ourselves out doing our job.”

“We have also seen a number of organisations locally become the “accidental responder” or “accidental counsellor” and without formal training in vicarious or frontline trauma, they are experiencing lingering impacts on their mental health and wellbeing.

“Having worked in the social sector for many years, I’ve seen the almost normalised acceptance of this kind of burnout and mental ill-health across the social sector – a sector that is always on the frontline when disasters and pandemics strike. That’s why we established the Foundation, which is Australia’s only charity with a focus on the mental health of those who work in the social sector.

“There is also very little support tailored for the social sector, so we are building the Social Sector Wellbeing and Resilience Hub, thanks to the support of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. While it’s yet to launch, we have already reviewed, curated and developed resources and training that are very relevant for our Northern Rivers communities, and will be giving Northern Rivers organisations priority access to the Hub in early 2023,” Ms Keady explained.

All of the training and services offered through this program are mapped to the Hub’s trauma-informed mental health and resilience framework, which is based on a six-pillar cycle of wellbeing: Prevent, Protect, Educate, Enhance, Crisis and Recovery.

Organisations will be able to access in person and online training and services. The training on offer will include:

  • Resilient Responders: For staff and volunteers working on the frontline with traumatised individuals, teaching them strategies to prevent and overcome workplace PTSD (vicarious trauma)
  • Empowering Conversations: The sequel to Resilient Responders, this involves training frontline responders in brief conversational interventions to help prevent and resolve trauma in their clients.
  • Workplace Wellbeing Strategy: A prevention-focussed workshop for boards, committees of management, teams, general managers and CEOs to develop a Workplace Wellbeing Plan on a Page for 2023, and to review and improve the policies and practices to ensure psychologically healthy and safe workplaces.

All organisations will also receive early and priority access to the Social Sector Wellbeing & Resilience Hub from January 2023. Northern Rivers organisations will also be provided with access to online self-paced learning modules on the above areas to support those who miss the live training, and/or want to upskill their teams and volunteers throughout 2023. In addition, participants can access free video resources from the Foundation’s Social Sector Video Library, which includes videos on wellbeing, volunteering, leadership, culture and much more.

Those seeking more information can register for one of three online information sessions, taking place between November 2022 and January 2023. Training will start in January 2023.

More information on the Supporting Frontline Responders in Northern Rivers NSW can be found here:




For more information, interviews and images, please contact the Foundation’s media communications team at JAW Communications: Megan French This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (phone 0417 603 355)


The Xfactor Collective Foundation is a registered charity, with a mission to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the social sector. It was established in 2020 and is the sister charity to the social enterprise The Xfactor Collective.


The Social Sector Wellbeing and Resilience Hub will provide both immediate support and long-term advocacy for improved mental health and wellbeing. Work on building the hub commenced in July 2022, with the launch scheduled for April 2023.

The new digital hub will be the go-to resource for building resilient social sector workplaces, with information available on all matters related to organisational and individual mental health and leadership. The Hub will curate, aggregate and develop content, alongside subject matter specialists and leading mental health organisations. Those working in the social sector will be able to access tailored resources, such as self-paced learning and trainings, webinars, consultations and downloadable resources.

To stay in touch about the Wellbeing Hub, please subscribe at the Foundation website:


In 2020, the Xfactor Collective Foundation undertook two research studies – the RESET 2020 National Impact + Need Research Study – both funded by Equity Trustees. This was the first time Australian social sector workers were asked about their mental health and wellbeing. The second phase mapped the impact on wellbeing of leaders, volunteers, employees and boards, and uncovered some significant findings:

  • 45% respondents were feeling stressed/anxious often/always (up from 13% pre-pandemic)
  • 41% of respondents were exhausted/frustrated often/always (up from 9% pre-pandemic)
  • 40% of respondents report not taking care of themselves often/always (up from 18% pre-pandemic)
  • 39% of respondents said their workload was unachievable often/always
  • 69% of respondents rated the overall impact of COVID-19 in 2020 on their leadership team as negative
  • 48% rated the overall impacts of COVID-19 on their Boards as negative

When asked what would be the most valuable support to deal with impacts on staff and volunteers, 31% of respondents said they would like help to manage staff and volunteer mental health and wellbeing (up from 18% in the first phase of the research). Wellbeing is an issue with many leaders, as evidenced by the Global Leadership Wellbeing Study of 3300 executives showed 60% feel stressed and anxious at work and 80% see themselves at risk of burnout as a result of the pandemic (AFR September 2021) This proposal focusses on the social, environmental and cultural sectors in Australia.

Working in the Social Sector is exacerbated by:

  • Funding uncertainty
  • Lack of resources to support trauma-informed workplaces and leadership
  • Inability to build financial reserves (40% of organisations had less than six months of financial reserves at September 2020, RESET 2020)
  • Workforce and talent shortages
  • High rates of employee turnover
  • Impact of rolling natural disasters and pandemic
  • Impact of economic uncertainty
  • Frontline exposure to confronting issues such as homelessness, family violence, climate change and disasters

Download the Media Release

Supporting the mental health of charities and community groups in Northern Rivers NSW (129.98 KB)


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The Xfactor Collective Foundation would also welcome interest from anyone else in the sector who would like to support the Foundation. Enquiries can be directed to Special Projects and Partnerships Manager, Annette Herschtal at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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