A passion shared: HiveMind Community Apiary’s Amanda Collins and veteran Daniel Hooper are buzzing for more people to learn the ropes of beekeeping. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

A hive of learning for veterans

May 4, 2021 BY

FOUR recently returned defence force veterans will be part of a new therapeutic beekeeping education program in Ballarat.

HiveMind Community Apiary will facilitate regular sessions with veterans who have experienced mental health conditions including post traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety, to teach the practices of apiary, offering them a new hobby and potential stress-relieving outlet.

Funded by a $34,000 Anzac Day Proceeds Fund grant from the State Government, the season-long program’s training workshops, bees, and care supplies are all covered, so participants can understand and monitor hive health, biosecurity and productivity.

The series of education sessions will offer each veteran an interactive psycho-social environment where they can connect with a community, and they’ll each be allocated their own hive.

Navy veteran and member of the Ballarat Veterans Assistance Centre Daniel Hooper said the “in-the-moment” nature of beekeeping “saved my life.”

“Two years ago, I would barely leave the house. I was in a really bad spot, but beekeeping has given me a purpose. It’s a form of medication, and a type of meditation I don’t realise I’m practicing while I’m doing it,” he said.

“A lot of veterans, when we get out of the defence forces, we suffer mental health issues and struggle to have a sense of purpose, so caring for a hive full of bees, or a couple, can give you a sense of belonging.

“It started off as a hobby for me and has turned into a large program. I volunteer at HiveMind, who will provide the education… so we can develop and offer peer-to-peer support down the track, making this a sustainable program.”

HiveMind Community Apiary co-founder Amanda Collins said the social enterprise was set up to share the “benefits of therapeutic beekeeping” with Ballarat people.

“In our family, we’ve had lived experience of mental illness, but we’ve found working with bees has helped us focus our minds, and use mindfulness as a strategy to help us manage depression and anxiety,” she said.

“When you open a beehive, you’re 100 per cent focused on what’s happening in the hive. Every thought outside the hive leaves your mind. You want to be together with the bees.

“When you’ve got 50,000 bees bubbling away at the top of the beehive, listening to their pitch, noise and vibrations, and visually seeing what they’re doing, that makes you so much more attune to what’s happening.”

Ms Collins said there are “lovely parallels” between the life of bees, and potential ways the broader community could better live their lives. They have “so much to teach us.”

“They’re industrious, and all the work that they do is them living for future generations,” she said.

Member for Buninyong Michaela Settle said the program’s funding was secured after Minister for Veterans Shaun Leane visited the BVAC a couple of months ago.

“He is very committed to addressing the awful statistics around veterans’ unemployment and mental health issues,” she said.

“The Minister was impressed to hear how much beekeeping has helped Daniel. We’re delighted to see this program supported through the Anzac Day Proceeds Fund.”

If anyone is interested in joining the program, call the BVAC on 4349 6339.