Jodie’s mural: a reason to get out of the house

By James Arbuthnott

From her home studio in Kyabram where people struggling with mental health and students on the spectrum come for colour therapy, Jodie Newlan left the house this year for something special.

A survivor of domestic violence and then a motorbike accident, Jodie’s motif describes inclusiveness and expression.

Because while the PTSD flashbacks may come and go, it's clear Jodie isn’t beaten by her trauma when you see her mural out the back of Park View Café on Allan St.

With chronic pain, Jodie can’t venture far from the house during the summer months.

It was at the Fauna Park where Jodie’s inspiration came while speaking to Park View Café owners Julie and Scott Graetz about her mural ideas.

“By discussing the mural and the environment around us I was able to get out of the house for a time using a mobility scooter,” Jodie said.

“But that was significantly shattered earlier this year with threats against my physical being — and it sent my PTSD into absolute meltdown and I spent three months suicidal.”

But the pain and the PTSD didn’t stop Jodie’s firecracker energy and creativity — she was determined to return to her community.

And perhaps inspire that same community to be more inclusive.

“Purpose is so underestimated for those who struggle to get out into the community, and if it’s just getting your hands into something you haven’t tried, just to be, is huge,” Jodie said.

“Music and art will transcend every language. It doesn’t matter what community you go into; colour and art connect people.”

Regional artists experience different barriers than those in the city, and connections can sometimes be scarce.

“There are different systems in place through mental health programs and local hospitals, but all of those come at significant schedules and costs,” Jodie said.

“When we were going through the different court systems as survivors of domestic violence, on top of moving and having to manage your children and the appointments, there are massive expenses attached to just being able to stop and just be without any structural rule.

“PTSD can be very aggressive when it flares up and sometimes you just need that space that’s safe and secure for whatever state you’re in, and to know there’s a network of people who understand — they become a bridge to those safe spaces.

“Work boxes us in, school boxes us in, all the necessary entities for life are very structured. And there’s a freedom in art and the food that connects us.

Jodie doesn’t want to only express herself — she wants to express her growing regional community of artistic NDIS students she teaches through art therapy from her home studio.

“We have youth that have struggled and we’re not there to replace the mental health resources, but just to offer a space free from that clinical side of what’s happening to them,” Jodie said.

“With drought we know our adults are suffering, but our kids are suffering too.

“We’ve given them the internet and said, ‘you can be anything you want, but you’ve only got until the end of high school to do it’.

“We have incredibly talented and mindful people come through the studio — they’re just stressed out.

Something Jodie knows too well after her motorbike accident.

It took three years of Vivo exposure — a cognitive behaviour therapy designed to lessen fear-related triggers — to get back on her feet.

“When my husband was unconscious and dying on the side of the road a gentleman picked me up to hold me — and my motorbike boots made me feel like I was disconnected, and I’d lost everything,” Jodie said.

“After the crash, I couldn’t wear shoes for three years.

“Vivo exposure shows you your most terrifying moment and teaches you to ground yourself. You can stay with the anxiety until it eventually passes.

“To have everyone watching me paint this mural — I would turn around and five or six people would be in the car park watching.

“The heart of this place is about an interactive community space and the café will have disability and scooter access — the plan is beyond business, it’s about food and people.

“For me it was more about what I was forgetting as well as what I was creating.”