Wongarbon's Ian Crafter, is helping to spark difficult conversations after becoming involved in a nationwide project. Late last month, Mr Crafter painted a tree on his property blue, joining in the Blue Tree Project movement.
But these blue trees are more than just for show, they are part of a Australian project that raises awareness of depression and suicide. The owner of Atlex Stockyards, first became aware of the Blue Tree Project after travelling to Western Australia.
While the national company is based in Dubbo, Mr Crafter regularly travels for work and noticed more and more blue trees popping up.
The first ever blue tree was created by Jayden Whyte in the middle of a paddock on his family's farm at Mukinbudin, Western Australia. Tragically, just a few years later Jayden took his own life, but the story of the blue tree was shared at his funeral.
Afterwards a friend painted a tree in Jayden's honour and it wasn't long before the movement and the message behind it, went viral. Upon finding out what the project was about and being moved by the initiative, Mr Crafter decided to paint a dead tree on his property.
"It just hit me like a ton of bricks that I could do something with our tree and expand the message and shine a light on mental health issues," he said.
While Atlex have a lot of yards in the Mukinbudin area, Mr Crafter never knew the Whyte family before all this, but said that rural people stick together.
He purchased the paint on the Friday and the tree was painted the following day. It took Mr Crafter about three hours to paint as high as 25 feet, with the help of scaffold and a roller.
Within the next couple of weeks he plans to add more paint to the tree, but for now Mr Crafter just hopes to draw attention to the project.
Despite the ongoing drought, Mr Crafter said his stockyards business was not severely affected.
"But because my business revolves 100 per cent around the rural community, I know plenty of people who are struggling both financially and emotionally," he explained.
"I am okay, but I'm still willing to put my shoulder to the wheel and support the rural community as much as possible in getting a discussion going."
Mr Crafter hopes when people see the blue tree while travelling along the Mitchell Highway that it will at least spark a conversation and let people know that it's okay not to be okay.
He has plans to put two signs up, one for the Blue Tree Project and the other for suicide prevention charity RU OK, so people were aware of what it was all about.
"I did it on Saturday afternoon.... and I couldn't believe how many people by Sunday morning and Monday, had seen it," Mr Crafter said of the blue tree.
"It was unbelievable. People were tooting their car horns and sending texts... and that's why I need the sign..."
Being in an area that is struggling with the drought, Mr Crafter said it was appropriate to have a blue tree on his property, situated just outside of Wongarbon.
- This story first appeared in the Wellington Times.