Aunty Cheryl Norris can be found most days sitting behind a table at a craft store in South Australia’s Riverland. 

Her hands weave tiny beads onto even thinner threads, crafting jewellery to be worn across wrists and ears.

“I was like a prisoner at home,” the Indigenous Erawirung woman says. 

“But now I can come down here to the shop every day.

Cheryl Norris creates beaded bracelets and earrings for her business. (ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

Joining her at the table, strewn with wool, is Marian Reeves and Darren Ellis. 

The couple runs the store, nestled in the streets of Berri, having moved from Victoria after their Shepparton rental was devastated by flooding.

“We weren’t sure whether we wanted to reopen the shop,” Ms Reeves said. 

“But with Cheryl nagging us saying that the community here needs something, we decided to reopen.” 

Darren Ellis and Marian Reeves say they were lucky to find a home in the Riverland.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

The couple had offered a similar space in Shepparton, and knew it could provide a spot for people from the community to craft or even just have a chat. 

Ms Reeves said some of the people who came into the shop didn’t have a project, but they just wanted to sit.

People are welcome to drop into the space and work on their own crafts.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

Mr Ellis said the space was attracting people from different backgrounds. 

“We have people coming in with disabilities that want to learn things,” Mr Ellis said.

“We have a group that comes in every fortnight and we sit around the table, we all have a good laugh and we just enjoy it.” 

Community-led success

Libby Byrne, who is a senior lecturer at the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University, said she had seen similar community-led projects. 

“I think they’re often incredibly successful when they come from grassroots in the way this project seems to be, when there are people in the community who see the need and start it,” Dr Byrne said.

Libby Byrne says providing a space to create artwork can have positive impacts on wellbeing. (Supplied: Libby Byrne)

She said being creative could support wellbeing. 

“If we’ve been feeling stuck, flat, depressed or anxious, we’re often replaying the same narrative and feeling that there’s limited possibilities for us in the world,” she said.

“When we engage with art, the possibilities tend to open up.”

Dr Byrne said community areas could also solve practical barriers.

“I think a lot of people can struggle with crafting or making art at home, because home might not have a place to do it,” she said.

“You know, you do it on the kitchen table.

“What happens when dinner comes along?

“So being able to have a place a studio or a shopfront, where you can go and be able to make a mess safely or spread things out, is quite a gift.”