Unleash the Beast Writing and Wellbeing Symposium is coming to Toowoomba for the first time on World Mental Health Day Wednesday 10 October.

The event aims to share, promote and propagate the conversation about mental health in a relaxed and engaging manner. Funds raised from the event will be used to provide free confidential professional counselling services through Lifeline Darling Downs and Southwest Queensland. Bringing authors and speakers from all over Australia to Toowoomba, the symposium will provide them with the opportunity to share their stories about how mental health affects us as individuals, as families and as a community.

Ray Martin, Allan Sparkes and Australian authors Peter FitzSimons, Ray Martin and Mia Freedman will join more than 60 authors and speakers to create In Conversation sessions, providing first-hand insight and experience in areas like rural mental health, indigenous, youth and retiree mental health. Attendees have the opportunity to choose whichever session is most relevant for them, whether it be just one or several sessions across the day.

In conjunction with the symposium, the Unleash the Beast committee also acknowledge The Toowoomba Mother’s Memorial, founded by a group of mothers and family members of soldiers who left from Toowoomba to fight in World War I and did not return. Bunches of 50 individual home-grown violets were picked and tied with cotton and sold for three or sixpence to raise the funds for this significant memorial. It is estimated that 144,000 bunches were sold – or more than seven million individual flowers – according to records held in the Toowoomba Local History Library. A total of 1800 pounds were raised from the sales, allowing the memorial to be built in 1922. The local newspaper at the time, the Darling Downs Gazette, read on Thursday 21 July 1921; “The committee will be very pleased to have the names of any girls who will volunteer to pick the bunches for the weekly sales in the streets. The Mothers’ Stall in Margaret Street will in future be held once a month… and it is hoped that the public will accord liberal patronage.”

Authors and speakers attending this inaugural event will be presented with a very special gift of the Toowoomba Violet, which was declared Toowoomba’s emblem at a meeting of Council on 11th January 1932. The Unleash the Beast committee would love to have descendants of the incredible women who were responsible for the memorial to present these gifts at the event.

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