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Our Region, Our People: Meet Pranee and Jane

Published 06 February 2023

How a health and wellbeing program saved a single mum’s life


The PCYC Cairns project helped Pranee get a job in a field she enjoys immensely

Holloways Beach resident Pranee Tomlinson is forever grateful for a fitness and mental health program which she credits with playing a major role in saving her life. 

The single mum of two adult children took part in the PCYC Cairns’ eight-week health and wellbeing program, funded by Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and continuing into next year. 

“I have a major depressive disorder and had been unwell for a long time. I wanted to return to living, not existing,” said Pranee. 

She said her case manager, an occupational therapist at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS), referred her to the program, which has been a big part of her mental health recovery.  

The 56-year-old underwent the full eight-week program a few times over 12 months. 

“The program involved initial assessment of blood pressure, fitness, mood, other supports and a personally tailored exercise program as well as healthy eating and lifestyle information,” said Pranee. 

“My overall health improved, my fitness level, my mood, and my ability to communicate with other people also improved. 

“I’m definitely a better person after the program and it has improved other aspects of my life. 

“I probably wouldn’t be here now if I didn’t take part in the program. It helped to save my life. It can help save others.” 

Completing the program led to a casual job for Pranee, who now is a direct support worker at a disability services and support organisation in Cairns. She works with people who have a disability or different abilities. 

Pranee praised her exercise physiologist Jane Kugelman, who is also the PCYC Cairns’ Healthy Lifestyles Region Manager. 

“Jane was a great help during the program. She’s non-judgmental, encouraging, down to earth and easy to talk to,” said Pranee. 

Ms Kugelman said Pranee was referred to the program in February 2021 and remained dedicated to attending as much as possible, gradually becoming one of the most regular participants. 

“Participants are always invited back for subsequent eight-week blocks of the program and these people will no doubt attest to the benefits of longer-term engagement in the group setting for exercise and healthy lifestyle education, as well as that we all keep learning new things from the program,” said Ms Kugelman. 

“Pranee was one of these people who engaged longer term and she emerged as an excellent peer support person in the program, providing encouragement to newer participants as she became comfortable in the program.  

“She has always been an excellent source of honest feedback, and her input has been priceless. I miss her in the program, but I am glad that her reason for not being able to get here is because she’s working in a field she’s passionate about.” 

The health and wellbeing program is an eight-week exercise and lifestyle education program where participants of up to 12 people receive a two-hour group session each week involving one hour of exercise and one hour of education delivered by an exercise physiologist and peer workers, dietitians, and other allied health professionals. 

The program is a collaborative effort involving other agencies, including Alliance Rehabilitation, Mind Australia, Neami National, and Centacare. 

The program is available for adults, 18 years plus, who receive support for mental health from either:  

  • a general practitioner for their physical/mental health 
  • a clinician in a public or private health service, and/or 
  • a community organisation that specialises in mental and/or physical health conditions.  

The exercise and lifestyle education program is designed to assist people with mental health issues increase physical activity and encourage healthier eating.  

The program aims to improve both physical and mental health as well as quality of life and self-esteem in a welcoming environment. 

It is delivered by allied health professionals who can assist people with complex medical and or physical conditions and works towards improving mental and physical wellbeing to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  

The program is progressive and suitable for adults of all fitness levels. Nutrition sessions are engaging, with a focus on helping people find their own healthy balance. 

For referrals go to 

Last updated: 18 May 2023