John Harper(New South Wales)

Founder of Mate Helping Mate (Mental Wellbeing Awareness)

John Harper

John Harper is a wheat/sheep farmer from Stockinbingal (Southern NSW) who, in 2006 began Mate helping Mate in the north-east Riverina.  John had recognised that as a consequence of the continuing drought and being rural or regional, many of his neighbours were becoming isolated or socially withdrawn.  Having experienced depression, John understood that this isolation and withdrawal placed people at risk of developing a mental illness.

Mate helping Mate is based on social and creative self-help strategies for managing difficult times and revolves around the benefits of mateship and a sense of community.  John has a unique visual method of presenting his information that appeals to a broad audience and has enabled people to understand the concepts of mental wellbeing John wishes to impart.  For example, John uses the visual aid of a slippery dip to explain the ‘slide into depression’.

From 2007 to the present John has given a lot of his time voluntarily to speak at rural mental health, drought and general agribusiness events.  Organisations such as WorkCover NSW, Dept of I & I, the YWCA of NSW and Centacare have also sponsored John to speak and present at events.  Mate helping Mate has proved so successful and engaging that John is busily speaking across eastern Australia.  The program has been widely promoted and supported by media, resulting in John being a finalist in the NSW Australian of the Year (Local Hero) for 2009, a Pride of Australia medal (Community Spirit) 2008 and with being honoured by Rotary  with a Paul Harris Fellow even though not a Rotarian.

John is convinced that ultimately everybody wants to be happy and enjoy their life. Mateship, family and community are paramount in achieving this goal and John is focused in promoting awareness and action in these specific areas.

Mates, family and the community should enjoy the good times together and care about the individuals during the bad. It is a simple concept, it is the Australian way and it is John Harper’s way.

Australia Day Questionnaire

What makes you proud to be Australian? That mateship is practised and stilled valued in modern Australia. 

(Urban Dictionary) Mateship. Australian way of friendship, but is greater than friendship. It is doing whatever to ensure a mate’s wellbeing and being able to accept help from a mate when necessary. It is treating people equally, regardless of race, gender, creed, religion, etc, and isn't shallow.

What achievement are you most proud of? On a personal level I am most proud of my three daughters. All of whom contribute positively to their community, their workplace and to our family. Ultimately I would like to mentor/father my girls so that they will be ‘better’ people than me and that will ensure that I have contributed positively to Australia and through them a brighter future for their generation and to those who follow.

Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it? My wife Michelle who taught me that life, and enjoying life, isn’t all about John Harper. Michelle did this by sticking by me, persevering with our relationship when I am at my worst and being the mother, with all that involves, of my girls.