'Roma Coma' remains in community groups after floods recede

Sisters Robyn Dawes and Kerry Culverhause have started a new choir for young people, but fear numbers may be kept down by the 'Roma Coma'. Photo Ben Hagemann / Western Star
Sisters Robyn Dawes and Kerry Culverhause have started a new choir for young people, but fear numbers may be kept down by the 'Roma Coma'. Photo Ben Hagemann / Western Star Ben Hagemann

It's a taboo phrase, but the 'Roma Coma' continues to affect community groups across the region.

Local sisters Kerry Culverhouse and Robyn Dawes can attest to the social phenomenon since founding the local singing group Vocal Aroma.

"We knew it wouldn't take off straight away, it's only been a few weeks," Ms Dawes said.

"It's called the Roma Coma; there's all these things that people say they want to join in with, but they never show up.

"It's an atmosphere of lethargy. The hard part is getting them out the front door."

Director of mental health organisation Beyond Blue, Brett McDermott, said community withdrawal was a phenomenon that emerged in a small percentage of people "a year or two" following a natural disaster event like the Roma floods.

"You could speculate that Roma's unusual in that there's a lot of new people, and it might not be as cohesive as other country towns," Professor McDermott said.

"With fly in, fly out, people are investing less into the social fabric of the town."

The lack of interest in joining community groups is a challenge not faced by Roma alone, with groups across the Surat Basin reporting similar challenges.

Chinchilla Apex Club president Matt McKerrow said over the last 10 years numbers have been dropping.

"It's a generational mindset," he said

"If you ask a person under 25 to join they say "what's in it for me," not "what can I do for you?".

"Community and service groups need to be more welcoming and listen to the ideas of young people."

Roma Cancer Council committee chair Julie Cook said she had seen a trend emerge of one-off volunteering, rather than a continued commitment to one group.

"There's a lot of Indians and not enough chiefs," she said.



The Roma Coma

- According to a local historian, the term was first used in the 1940s as a "sarcastic comment" on Roma's lifestyle.

- Today used to describe apathy in getting involved in community.



Community Groups and floods in the Surat Basin on Dipity.

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