Gabrielle McNamara

Gabrielle is an Occupational Therapist in Western NSW Local Health District. Gabe has worked in mental health since 2009 across a variety of settings and services including Older People’s Mental Health. She has also been involved in the NSW state initiative “Pathways to Community Living Initiative” supporting people who experience severe and persistent mental illness to re-establish a meaningful life in the community.


Title: An effective partnership is key to a successful ‘physically active’ bush program

Author(s): Gabrielle McNamara, Caroline Robertson, Tegan Hartmann, Rachel Rossiter

Extensive research has demonstrated regular physical activity as key to maintaining physical and mental well-being. Nevertheless, research reporting on the design and delivery of a physical activity program with Older People with lived experience of mental illness is limited. To date, there are no reports describing research undertaken within a regional/rural setting in New South Wales.

In 2020, an interdisciplinary team comprising Occupational Therapists and Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP) in partnership with academic researchers tackled the challenge of designing and delivering a physical activity program with Older People in the bush. The aim of the project was to deliver a 12-week exercise program consisting of three 60-minute weekly sessions to participants already engaged with case managers from the local Older Persons Mental Health team. The program was to be delivered by an AEP in a fully equipped gym environment accessible to community members with a design informed by research and consisting of a combination of cardio, balance, and resistance training tailored to the identified needs of each participant.

This presentation will reflect on a journey of co-design, adaptation, problem-solving and tenacity leading to delivery of a successful program. It will examine the challenges, benefits and strengths of a partnership incorporating clinicians from a public mental health service, AEPs from a private business and university based academic researchers. The presentation will conclude with an analysis of co-collaboration in practice; the experience of applying research to practice despite a pandemic; and discussion of the implications and lessons learned to inform future research endeavours.

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