Thuc Tran, a participant in Jesuit Social Services’ Western Metro Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect program (MHWC), which supports the family members and carers of people with mental illness and substance use issues, is a true testament to the power of community support.

Born in Vietnam, Thuc immigrated to Australia as a refugee with her family 1995. Thuc entered our MHWC program after feeling overwhelmed by her caring responsibilities for her 14-year-old son.

Merryn, coordinator of support work at the MHWC considers her first interaction with Thuc, “I remember when we first met with Thuc, she was talking about how there wasn’t a lot of respect from many different people in her life…and she seemed very overwhelmed.”

“Grace…I knew nothing about her. I knew nothing about the service. But the way they behaved with me, the way they supported me, they felt like a family.”

The program paired Thuc with her MHWC worker, Grace, who helped her reconnect with her passion for art and helped her secure funding to buy an iPad, which she used to explore digital art for the first time. Grace also accompanied Thuc to explore locations in the community where she could practice her art, getting inspiration from rivers and local parks, when she lacked the confidence to do so on her own.

“Grace…I knew nothing about her. I knew nothing about the service. But the way they behaved with me, the way they supported me, they felt like a family,” says Thuc.

Thanks to Grace’s support and the trusting relationship the two women built, Thuc was exited from the program late last year and opened an exhibition at the local community to showcase her work to the public.

The collection included pieces from many different eras of Thuc’s life, which is beautifully captured in the exhibition’s title “Journey.” Memories of her hometown in Vietnam sit aside more recent experiences of her new life in Australia.

“This painting is of a flower I once saw on my birthday,” says Thuc, describing her piece titled ‘Orchid’, “I really wanted to buy it, but I had no money at the time. So, I decided to paint it. I told myself that way, it would last forever.”

Thuc’s collection represents a rich tapestry of emotions and experiences, each stroke telling a story of resilience and hope. Her work resonates with all of us who have used a passion to cope with life’s many challenges, “when I do art, I am free.”

Leanne, General Manager of Housing and Complex Needs, notes how Thuc’s continued growth “is a remarkable example of people’s potential and the power of self-expression.” Stories like hers are the reason why the Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect continues to be such a critical resource for those with caring responsibilities.

With the grand opening of the new MHWC centre on the horizon, the team hopes to continue the success of the program. In Grace’s own words: “My dream is for everyone who works with MHWC to feel confident and proud in who they are. The same effort and enthusiasm I put into the work together, Thuc has given me back in strength and resilience. I feel fulfilled in watching Thuc embrace her talent.”


Thuc's hometown in Vietnam

If you would like to visit Thuc’s art exhibition, “Journey,” it is available for public viewing at the Bowery Gallery in St. Albans Community Centre, 33 Princess Street, St Albans, until May 4th.