Ballarat cafes are among the first in the state to take part in a new scheme to help reduce loneliness and social isolation.
Barkly Square's A Pot of Courage cafe is one of four cafes registered as a Chatty Cafe, with a table or two set aside for people to make social connections.
Simply, the table has signage denoting it as a "chatty table" and if you sit there you are open to someone joining you there for a chat.
At A Pot of Courage there is extra importance to the scheme with the cafe supporting women from migrant backgrounds who might find themselves even more socially isolated than other community members.
They introduced the chatty table, with its bright yellow signage, two weeks ago and it has been well used.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning a table is set aside as a chatty table from 9am to 11am.
"People are coming and sitting there and talking. Not just local people but women from migrant backgrounds, some of whom rarely go out or meet somebody," said A Pot of Courage kitchen cafe coordinator Lilly Wright.
Social enterprise A Pot Of Courage offers employment, skill-building and social connections for refugee, immigrant and Aboriginal women in Ballarat. They moved in to the Barkly Square cafe about six weeks before the first COVID lockdown.
By the end of the year it is hoped 50 local cafes across the Ballarat region will be signed up to the scheme, which is being funded through a VicHealth Reimagining Health grant.
Jen Pollard from Uniting Ballarat is working with Chatty Cafes Australia to implement the scheme in Ballarat.
"One of the focuses is on addressing the issue of loneliness and mental health in people, particularly post-COVID," Ms Pollard said.
She said it not only helped build social connections and reduce loneliness, but also helped cafes rebuild their business after the devastating run of COVID lockdowns.
People can visit the chatty cafe website and find a cafe near them that is taking part in the program.
"If you are sitting at the table you are open to someone joining you," she said.
"As well as addressing issues of social isolation and loneliness what's really rampant is anxiety and loss of confidence of people part of the community," she said.
"So it really is a rebuilding block for everyone after COVID."
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A Pot of Courage is also running a 'Pay it Forward' scheme where people can pay for an extra meal or drink for someone in need.
Chatty Cafe Australia idenitified Ballarat as the location for their first regional program. Ms Pollard said four cafes have already signed up, a further 20 have expressed definite interest and the goal is to have 50 operating by the end of the year.
"It's a great little initiative and proves things don't have to be too complicated. Cafes are a place where people go and loneliness is something we have to keep working on ... too many people don't have people to turn to in our community."
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