Giving priority to local voices

  • People amongst coastal plants on a beach with blue sky and sea
    Future Leaders boys group, on Country bush walk. [Image: Jarred Franey]
  • Two people blowing bubbles in a football field
    Our Block Rocks community event, Broome. [Image: Jarred Franey]

When a health provider reflects the needs and voices of the community it serves, it can change people’s lives. With the benefit of youth input and support of local Indigenous services, HelpingMinds and the community have developed a range of workshops that reflect the strengths of Aboriginal people and culture.

From Elders and senior members sharing stories, to the delivery of cultural activities that support and strengthen young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, local voices lead the way in strengthening responses to personal health challenges.

Coming from a country town and regional background myself, I have shared experiences with many in this community relating to my identity and the challenges of repairing cultural connections impacted by the Stolen Generations government policies. I’m an Arrernte man, from Alice Springs, with strong ties to Boula (Pitta Pitta) from Western Queensland. I have been the Senior Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer with HelpingMinds in Broome for the past three years.

There are a number of factors to consider for anyone who wishes to commence and succeed in delivering a service in Indigenous communities.

Get to know the community and find out who else is working and engaging with families, to reduce the number of double-up services and maximise funding opportunities. Understanding the factors that can weaken Indigenous people’s social and emotional wellbeing is also important. We must recognise the detrimental impacts of colonisation on family identity, relationships, connection to Country and culture, and how the perpetuation of negative behaviours works in these systems.

We all deserve to learn about and seek support without the fear of being judged or embarrassed. With the support of Telethon Trust, HelpingMinds launched the Stepping Stones Program, with three key objectives to engage Aboriginal youth.

  1. Use culturally appropriate, codesigned visual storyboards, workshops and activities to explore and share understanding about health and wellbeing.
  2. Work together to build confidence and life skills that support health and wellbeing.
  3. Build understanding of awareness, identification, education, early intervention and prevention so that pathways to appropriate services become clear and accessible.

HelpingMinds attributes the success of the workshops to community-led discussions – finding out from families what the real issues are, gaining genuine insight and recognising issues which are often systemic.

Delivering meaningful programs is only possible with positive relationships within the community – with clients as well as with local services. Together we have the ability to meet mental health and capacity challenges head on and maintain respectful services that make the best of what we have for those who need it the most.

HelpingMinds was the recent winner of the 2022 WA Mental Health Award – Diversity.

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