Local Legend Jules Haddock, Empowering Individuals

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Surf Coast Art of the Minds Festival founder Jules Haddock tells of an artist who contributed to the festival exhibition a few years back on strict proviso that her name not be revealed on her work.

The artist felt she needed anonymity in the emotional space that she occupied at the time.

But the following year she put her name to a new contributed piece.

The year after that she asked if she could volunteer for the week-long festival.

And the year after that she stepped up to join the organising committee.

Jules relates the story with measure of deep pride. As a mental health educator and passionate advocate she finds it resonates strongly.

“Her line was ‘I found my community’,” Jules says.

“That has always run with me.”

Art of the Minds is held during and celebrates National Mental Health Week each year, with the aim of activating, educating and engaging Surf Coast Shire and wider communities to creatively manage mental health and wellbeing.

Jules inadvertently founded the festival in 2015 with staging of her own art exhibition and sharing of her lived experience of mental illness.

A concept was born, and flourished. Last year’s festival incorporated 33 events involving hundreds of attendees. More than 130 people with lived experience of mental illness shared their personal stories through art, song and poetry.

Now the festival’s inspiring founder and president is Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising her passion and leadership supporting and connecting people and helping her community to thrive.

“Her dynamic leadership in mental health awareness and community support shines through,” her nominators said.

“Jules fosters vital discussions, reduces stigma and empowers individuals through innovative education. She is an outstanding candidate and an inspiration.

Jules said Art of the Minds means so much to her.

“There’s nothing like it across Australia. We are really proud of our achievements. I couldn’t have done it without our committee of course,” Jules says.

“I guess I’m very big on connecting community and bringing people together and giving voice to people who are feeling really vulnerable. I guess that’s been my calling.

“I’m good at gathering people and I guess from an education perspective I’ve got the foundation of what our mental health is all about.”

The festival’s signature events include a launch on World Mental Health Day 10 October, community art exhibition, Surf Coast song contest, education seminars and many more offerings including wellbeing events with yoga, Qi gong, meditation and music.

Though Art of the Minds is a not-for-profit charity relying on the generous support of organisations including Geelong Community Foundation and Lions Club of Torquay, it also supports local businesses and venues which host its events.

“The beauty of this festival is that we tell businesses that they can make the money, they don’t have to donate to Art of the Minds,” Jules says.

“We use the platform to grab the microphone and remind people about the importance of them connecting and embracing knowledge about mental health.”

Art of the Minds also proudly supports Mt Duneed’s Foundation 61 Addiction Treatment Centre.

“Last year we raised $17,225 for Foundation 61 and grew ourselves, and I think that’s because there is a big synergy between substance misuse and mental illness,” Jules says.

Alongside Art of the Minds, Jules has her own mental health education business The Anxious Bird and her own online wellness program My Recovery Wheel, and has broadened her skill set to include qualification as a laughing yoga instructor.

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