Our People to Live Stronger & Longer

Keeping spirit strong through a holistic approach at Waminda

Imagine receiving a care package from your local health provider with food, sanitiser and art and craft materials for your children. Your Elders getting their medical supplies and toiletries. And everyone being reminded to keep active and nurture their body through eating healthy food. That was Waminda’s response to lockdown earlier this year in order to ensure the safety of their mob.

Waminda, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service for women’s health and welfare, has a strong cultural governance and is guided by the community in which it operates. Their programs are rooted in connection to country and culture, with a particular focus on healing and keeping spirit strong.

The Baalang Healing program is a key program for Waminda. It was developed in response to the social and emotional wellbeing, spiritual, cultural and physical health needs of our community. “It has been designed and led by Aboriginal women under the guidance of Elders. Their voices are powerful in the design of our healing processes. There is a commitment to pass on cultural knowledge, identity and healing,” said Kristine Falzon.

Self-determination is a key focus of this program. Participants are encouraged to recognise and value themselves as their own healers. Throughout the healing program, the team at Waminda also created resources for the community specific to their needs. This includes free hotlines and additional support to increase accessibility to assistance. The health professionals working in the program include therapists, counsellors, case managers, cultural mentors and after hours support.

Waminda staff are widely admired and proud of their achievements in their own communities and the broader Shoalhaven. ‘The driving vision of Waminda is to provide culturally safe service. We offer women and their Aboriginal families an opportunity to belong and receive quality health and well-being support.’ said Waminda’s executive manager Kristine Falzon.

This story was written and published by the Australian Government Department of Health. For more stories on keeping your spirit strong visit the Department of Health website. 

AH&MRC make a trip to Tharawal

On Thursday 29th of October 2020 AH&MRC visited Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS). The visit was planned so that Sector Support and the Public Health and Intelligence Teams could share the projects they’ve been working on and brainstorm how AH&MRC can support Tharawal AMS with their programs and initiatives.

Tharawal AMS’s CEO, Darryl Wright took time out of his busy day to take the AH&MRC team on a tour of the service. He showed the AH&MRC Team the Fruit and Veg Shed where they run the ‘Good Tucker All Round Program’. This Fruit and Vegetable Delivery Program delivers boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living on the Dharawal land in the Campbelltown Local Government Area. The program targets people who have or at risk of having a chronic disease including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Darryl introduced the Team to staff at Tharawal AMS and showed them around the Medical Centre, treatment rooms and Koori Garden, explaining all the healthy lifestyle programs that Tharawal AMS have to offer.

The team witnessed a special moment when Darryl presented a beautiful sculpture to a very hard-working staff member of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health. The staff member had worked on the Poche bus all day making dentures for Tharawal AMS community members.

The AH&MRC team were impressed with the extensive services offered to Tharawal Community members in medical, social and emotional wellbeing, lifestyle and family support. It was a trip that we remember fondly in the years to come.

Author –

Marina Wise, AH&MRC Public Health and Intelligence Unit

Deadly tips on what to do if someone replies that they R NOT OK?

The 10th of September is R U OK? Day. A day where we are encouraged to reach out to friends, family, work colleagues and ask them a simple question – R U OK?  It can be hard to ask the question especially if you have not planned what to say next.

Tip 1: Have a yarn

Talk to them about why they are not ok. Try not to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. The most important thing is showing up and listening to what they have to say without judgement. See whether you can identify why they are having a bad day. Maybe they had a fight with a friend or family member, or maybe they haven’t been feeling ok for a while. If they have experienced a low mood for a period longer than two weeks, encourage them to call their local AMS or the Mental Health Line (1800 011 411). These services can help connect them with a bulk-billed psychologist, social worker or mental health worker in their local area.

Tip 2: Connect them with other people

It’s been difficult to connect to Country during COVID-19. For some, this has created feelings of loneliness and isolation from Community. Think of other ways to help them connect to their Community and Culture in COVID era. Suggest linking the person up with an Elder or person in the Community who has experienced similar issues and can provide guidance. Encourage them to attend a support group with people experiencing similar issues. Many of these groups have moved online and are easily accessible during COVID-19. Call your local AMS to see whether they are running any support groups or SEWB programs at the moment.

Tip 3: Find out what they enjoy

While COVID-19 has had many negative effects on mental health; job loss, isolation, loneliness and anxiety; many good things have come from it as well.  COVID-19 has freed up time, usually spent on socialising and activities, for people to do refocus on passion projects, or things that they enjoy. People are using this time to start a creative project e.g. cultural art or music therapy, rediscover an old hobby or start a new one. Ask them if there’s an activity or hobby they would like to start or resume. It could be something with cultural roots like traditional painting or connecting to land through time outside in nature. If they are reluctant to make a start, offer to join in so that they feel comfortable and supported while they build up their confidence.

Tip 4: Share the burden

Finally, remind them they are not alone in this. If you can, offer your support in things that they might find difficult right now like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. If you can, offer to be there as a support buddy to contact when they’re struggling. If you are feeling stretched right now or you are struggling with your own mental health, see if one of your other friends or family members can have a yarn, or lend a hand. If their issues are out of your depth, for example, traumatic events, substance abuse and depression encourage them to reach out to their local AMS for a referral to see a Social and Emotional Wellbeing Worker (SEWB), AOD Worker or Mental Health Nurse or counsellor. If your friend or family member mentions self-harm or suicidal thoughts, encourage them to call the NSW Mental Health line on 1800 011 511.

Sometimes we get so busy in our lives that we forget to check in with the people most important to us to see if they are ok. That first conversation can be difficult, but it can change a life. For more information on R U OK? Day, visit the R U OK? Day website.

SMART Recovery Training Q&A

What is your position at Armajun Aboriginal Health Service?

My name is Natasha Hunt and I am a Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Drug and Alcohol Caseworker at Armajun Aboriginal Health Service in Inverell.

Why did you choose to do SMART Recovery Training?

I chose SMART Recovery Training to upskill myself in my positions and to aid my confidence in holding positive conversations with my clients to better support their needs through the recovery and healing process.

What is your feedback on the SMART Recovery Training?

The SMART Recovery Training has been very clear and concise. It has left me with no questions unanswered and no need for further explanation on any topic within the training.

What knowledge and skills have you gained through the Smart Recovery Group Facilitator Training?

I believe after finishing SMART Training Phase 1 I have gained knowledge, skills and tools to confidently become a SMART Recovery Group Facilitator (on completion of phase 2). I have gained confidence from the training and it has given me the necessary skills to initiate and guide positive and constructive conversations with my clients to aid self-management with their recovery and healing process.

What have been the benefits of doing the SMART Recovery Training?

The benefits of doing the SMART Recovery Training are evident in the confidence I have gained in assisting clients in their recovery and healing journey. Through the SMART Recovery Training I will be able to provide guidance for clients on how to determine and set realistic and achievable goals, as well as focus on practical solutions in the ‘here and now’.

How will you utilise the skills you have obtained through undertaking the training?

I will utilise the skills I have gained from undertaking the SMART Recovery Training phase 1, with almost every client who I support in both my roles as Social & Emotional Wellbeing and Drug & Alcohol Caseworker. The skills I have obtained will help to keep my support focused and will assist me in helping clients self-manage their journey through recovery as each client’s situation is unique. Using these skills, I will be able to provide a safe space and a holistic approach to healing.

I have gained valuable skills in applying Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) strategies to assist clients in gaining greater control over their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Learning about motivational interviewing has given me an understanding of how to support clients in building and maintaining motivation, cope with urges and cravings and problem solve using CBT techniques including facilitating healthy non-judgmental conversations on how to attain a healthy lifestyle balance.

Would you recommend the SMART Recovery Training to others?

Overall, I have been very satisfied with the SMART Recovery Training. It has been a very pleasant learning experience. I score the online SMART Recovery Training 10/10 and highly recommend!

To find out more about SMART Recovery Training and how AH&MRC can assist you to complete this training please contact SQuayle@ahmrc.org.au

Trauma Informed Practice Online Workshops

In collaboration with Kyanga Cultural Consultancy (KCC) we delivered 4 online workshops on the topic of Trauma-Informed Practice in June. The workshops were highly successful with a high turnout rate and an engaged audience across the board.

KCC ensured that the content of the workshop was appropriate for an online format, as Trauma-Informed Practice can be a confronting and sensitive topic.

Initially, the workshops were going to be delivered back to back with the SEWB and AOD Forums that had been planned, but due to current COVID-19 circumstances were not able to deliver on this expectation.

Trauma affects us all, directly, or indirectly. Many people live with the ongoing effects of past and present overwhelming stress (trauma). Despite the large number of people affected, many of us don’t think of the possibility that someone we meet, speak to or support may have experienced trauma. This makes us less likely to recognise trauma in others. Keeping the possibility of trauma on our radar means keeping the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of people who may be trauma survivors in mind. It means being respectful, understanding and acknowledging the experiences of others.

The Trauma-Informed Practice Workshop provided participants with an overview of what Trauma-Informed Practice is and a safe space to explore what communication tools can benefit this practice. Topics covered considered the core principals of trauma-informed practice, and a strength-based approach for those working with Aboriginal people affected by trauma. The workshop encouraged participants to look at how they are currently working, and how they could improve their trauma-informed practice to strengthen their workplaces response to trauma.

We would like to thank all the ACCHS staff members who attended and the KCC for such informative and engaging sessions. We look forward to working together in the future.

Authors – AH&MRC Practice Support Team

How to stay COVID safe this long weekend

It is important that everyone stay’s safe, healthy, and strong over the long weekend. COVID-19 and the flu are still highly infectious and may be spread by close contact with other people, and Aboriginal people who live with chronic health conditions and/or are over 50 are at greater risk. If you are planning to go out on the weekend, make sure that you:

Plan your trip

Pack hand sanitiser, your own water bottle and follow the rules on buses, trains and trams. If you can, avoid using public transport by walking, riding a bike or sharing a lift with friends and family.

Wash, wash, and wash your hands!

Use hand sanitiser and wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially before you decide to re-fuel with food and drink, as well as soon as you get home. Try to avoid touching your face when out and about, as this is the easiest way for germs to spread.

Continue to keep a safe distance

Try to keep a safe and healthy space between you and others. The best way to ensure that viruses don’t spread is to keep a safe distance of 1.5 metres and, as much as you may want to hug and kiss your friends and family, try not to.

The COVID-19 Safe app may also track who you’ve been in contact with and a health official will be in touch with you if you have been exposed to the virus. If you’d like to learn more about the COVID-19 safe app, click here.

If you feel unwell stay home

Our Communities have done a great job so far with keeping COVID-19 out. If you’re feeling sick with a cough, sore/scratchy throat, shortness of breath or fever, stay home to avoid putting your loved ones at risk.

As restrictions ease, it is more important than ever to stay safe and practise social distancing rules. For the latest updates and information visit the NSW Health website.

Authors –

AH&MRC Cultural Group

AH&MRC Comms Team

Waminda SEWB Wellness Packs

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) packs have been created through collaborative discussion with women at Waminda in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our beautiful packs are boxes of items and activities that help people feel better in uncertain times. They are as tailored as they can be to each family and person in Community.  They contain a range of arts and craft activities, bunting kits, baby packs, children’s books, school supplies,  Aboriginal story stones, Weaving kits, Aboriginal flag making kits, fishing gear, journals and diaries, painting canvases and books, plants and seeds, puzzles, mindfulness activities, kids craft kits, colouring books and SEWB resource information.

We are very proud of how well they have come together.  And how the packs are a little symbol of how we are thinking about, and here for Community at this time.

Why did we collaboratively create them?

Aboriginal people have a long history of resilience and resistance, and we wanted to support Community as much as we could to provide culturally safe and supportive SEWB support, therapeutic activities and information to help keep Community feeling well, strong and connected.

Isolation and fear in community, as well as disconnection from family, Country and Culture for some, has been challenging for some families.

We wanted to create some culturally safe fun and creative ideas that help families connect to each other, feel stronger, cared about and bring a sense of belonging and joy to peoples’ days.

We wanted community to know that Waminda is here to support them in every way we can.

How do the contents of the packs help Community through tough times?

Waminda wanted to support parents keep kids feeling engaged, having fun, help them express their feelings and telling stories through art.

We also wanted to provide some nurturing activities for older children and adults such as weaving and Story Stones, to help adults feel cared for, more connected to self and Culture as much as we could, so they feel strong in themselves as parents and Elders.

The art activities help people tell their stories, share experiences, and express themselves artistically.  Art as Healing is an important part of our therapeutic work at Waminda.  We want women and their families to feel supported, to feel hopeful, and to create memories with their families at home.   Art can be a collective experience that allows us to feel connected to self, and to the whole.

How does this activity keep in alignment with the Waminda Model of Care and Balaang healing framework?

Being an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service our first priority is always to our families in communities. During times such as these it’s our responsibility to ensure that our communities still access services, as this is when the community need can be greater in different ways to usual business. Waminda’s MOC and Balaang Healing Framework delivers a holistic wrap-around service, so when we create the SEWB packs along with food packs for our client’s we are continuing to service our community. By being operational in different ways we keep connection with community and give support, in return our families feel less isolated which is beneficial to their SEWB.

What has been the response?

  • Families have been very excited and grateful
  • There have been lots of creativity and art items produced
  • Parents have sent photos of their kids having fun doing art together
  • People feel cared about and thought of
  • Waminda encourages feedback via workers, social media or word of mouth so we all feel connected and interested in what other people are doing and how they are all going through this strange time. We look forward to sharing the art activities with others on our social media platforms, enhancing connectivity and belonging.

Any other benefits to staff and the service in doing this?

  • We have had staff from a range of Waminda SEWB teams supporting this project, contributing ideas and helping keep it aligned with our Balaang Healing Framework, so it has been a special experience for us all.
  • Staff feel a great sense of wellbeing in spending time together, yarning and creating beautiful packs.
  • Everyone who wants to contribute has input, so it’s a truly collaborative process
  • Greater sense of connection we have with each other whilst doing something supportive for Community
  • Staff getting the opportunity to safely spend a little time with other staff in a time that is socially isolating for everyone
  • We get to see the look of joy on people’s faces when they get the packs, and it is heartwarming for us all
  • Looking after Community. Most staff ARE Community.

About Waminda

Waminda is an Aboriginal organisation lead by women that’s been established for 36 years, providing culturally safe holistic and wellbeing services to the women and their Aboriginal families in the Shoalhaven communities on the South Coast of NSW.


Cleone Wellington

Cultural Manager

Aunty Cheryl Harrison

Balaang Gunyah Worker

Sorcha Conlan

Social and Emotional Wellbeing Counsellor

Connected to Country: #CommunityControl success stories at Galambila

As bushfires and heavy smoke plagued the NSW mid-north coast, Galambila’s connection to Country and community shone through.

For weeks last year the skies over Galambila were “almost apocalyptic” as devastating bushfires continued to burn nearby, threatening local community members on the other side of the coastal highway in northern New South Wales.

By day and by night the sun and the moon glowed blood red as acrid smoke lay low and dark over the area, exacerbating respiratory issues and raising longer-term health and safety concerns for a summer that was still to come.

As coordinator of Ready Mob, the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program at the Galambila Aboriginal Health Service at Coffs Harbour, Tyson Morris is usually focused on a different sort of smoke.

But this had been a devastating and early start to the bushfire season.

“The amount of smoke up here is really hazardous to health,”

he reported, as the bushfires burnt into their second week and the tropical region had gone without rain for more than a month.

“You can hear it in people when they walk in, they’re really shorter of breath. I feel it myself.”

Galambila rallied in response to this early season emergency, rescheduling appointments in case acute demand grew and setting up rooms with ventilation.

Morris and others took to social media, getting messages out to community via Facebook particularly on the need to be prepared and stay safe: to leave if urged to do so by emergency services, and to be mindful of their mental and physical health as the bushfires burnt on.

Morris is a Gumbaynggirr man, born and bred in the area around Coffs Harbour, where the Great Dividing Ranges meet the sea.

“We all take pride in the area,” he says of the 3,500-strong local Aboriginal community served by Galambila, which in late 2018 marked its 20th anniversary and the arrival of new CEO Reuben Robinson, previously a long-standing board member.

Its response to the bushfire risks is a measure of how Galambila seeks to work: connected to country and community and looking to prevention, primary responses, and to the long-term on a range of health issues, be they physical, social, emotional or environmental.

It also has a strong focus on the wellbeing of its own teams, Morris says.

“The working environment here is a really healthy one,” he says. “There’s a lot of support internally here for our staff and our team members. It’s a place where you can feel you’re valued.”

Boosting checks

Galambila’s approach, and the healthy dose of humour it brings to its work, has contributed to outstanding successes in recent times.

Clients sitting in the waiting room have been able to track the progress of the service’s innovative efforts to boost kidney health checks and flu vaccinations, egged on by plenty of puns and caricatures of staff to literally put a face to the messages.

“That really connected with community,” said Galambila chief pharmacist Chris Braithwaite, who is also leading the service’s quality improvement and clinical governance work under the Enhancing Mob Health Using Data (EMHUD) program.

The program, which maps and tracks a suite of national KPIs to identify areas for improvement in terms of how Galambila delivers services, identified in 2016 that rates of flu vaccination uptake among the community were low.

A subcommittee was formed with representatives of all teams – from reception and finance through to clinical and administration – to come up with strategies to improve uptake. This ensured input and buy-in across the organisation.

Strategies included fun and funny health promotions, plus internal action such as a Myth Busters for all staff that aimed to address mixed messages and myths that were preventing people from vaccinating.

It saw Galambila double its vaccination rate over two years, from 586 in 2017 to 1083 by the end of 2019.

Inspired by the results, the service took a similar approach this year to kidney health checks. In mid-2017, Galambila’s rate was “sitting at around 10 percent of eligible people” screened over the past two years, Braithwaite explains.

Two years on, it’s at around 45 percent of that population now, more than double the state average of 20 percent, “so we’ve done really well, relatively,” he says.

“If someone comes in with a sore knee, you tend to just focus on the sore knee, but because we had had all these broad discussions that helped elevate kidney health into our minds, we made sure to raise the need for checks in consultations with those patients who were eligible.”

Galambila’s approach, and the healthy dose of humour it brings to its work, has contributed to outstanding successes in recent times. Image credit: Galambila

Ngiyaa Ngiimba Minya Ngiinda Julu-Ngarraangi. We all ask what you think

Galambila is now reviewing its approach to Health Assessments and has formed a partnership with the Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation in Grafton and the Werin Aboriginal Corporation Medical Clinic in Port Macquarie to form a regional strategy, “recognising we’re all stronger together”.

A community survey done as part of the review process has generated rich insights, resulting in a ‘four pillars’ approach to Health Assessments, considering the perspective of the patient, the population, the service and the workforce.

A key message from the community, which is now being embedded into responses, was that they wanted a bigger focus on social and emotional wellbeing, as well as physical health.

Galambila has also consulted closely with the community on mental health, looking in particular to make RUOK Day more meaningful and effective. It sought advice from the local Elders’ group on culturally appropriate ways to approach mental health concerns, and what language to use.

The result? A response that’s community-led rather than generic or mainstream and where – again, unsurprisingly — humour has been key.

Community-led responses with close engagement of elders and a healthy dose of humour are key to Galambila’s success. Image credit: Galambila

Ready Mob: finding triggers that work

Mr Gross Mouth often does the talking for Ready Mob’s Tyson Morris, graphically depicting the effects of smoking: dried lips, ulcers, cancers, a ‘furry’ tongue from the settlement of tar and plaque, and gingivitis.

“I like to put a lot of humour into it, that’s how I like to deliver sessions,” says Morris of his larger-than-life prop.

Ready Mob (which stands for Really Evaluate And Decide Yourself – Make Ourselves Better) delivers hundreds of Smokerlyzer tests at events throughout the region, from sports fixtures through to the Elders Olympics held this year at Port Macquarie.

Similar to a random breath test for alcohol, the Smokerlyzer measures the amount of carbon dioxide in a person’s bloodstream, providing some key and very personal statistics as to how addicted to smoking they are and, often importantly, how much that level of smoking is costing a year financially.

Morris has seen people give up “cold turkey, on the spot” at his education sessions. “One was 14 or 15 years old, I told him smoking can affect all different parts of your body, including your reproductive organs,” he says. “That pushed him over the edge.”

Ready Mob (bottom) delivers hundreds of Smokerlyzer tests (top) at events throughout the region. Tyson Morris has seen people give up “cold turkey, on the spot” at his education sessions, which use a mixture of humour and education, assisted by a larger-than-life prop known as Mr Gross Mouth (centre). Image credit: Galambila

Aboriginal Health Workers in focus

Tyson Morris – Aboriginal Health Worker, Ready Mob coordinator

For Tyson Morris, an interest in how the body works was sparked in his early 20s when he started exercising, body-building and going to the gym.

Seeing his own body improving, and in action, prompted him to apply for a job at Galambila as a health promotion officer, “my first Ready Mob job”.

After completing his Certificate IV in Aboriginal Primary Health through the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) Morris moved into clinical work, something he found both easy and rewarding.

Last year, he was thrilled to take up the Ready Mob coordinator role, where he gets to help empower community members to make their own informed decisions about health.

“It’s seeing people realise: ‘this is my health, my body, I’m going to do what’s best for me’,” he says.

Asked what his secret is, Morris says it’s about “the information that is provided and how it’s done. You can tell someone something but unless it directly correlates with them, they won’t necessarily pay attention. If you can customise it, then that can really hit home.”

Last year, Tyson Morris was thrilled to take up the Ready Mob coordinator role, where he gets to help empower community members to make their own informed decisions about health. Image credit: Galambila

Michelle Sinclair – Aboriginal Health Worker

Michelle Sinclair is a Gumbaynggirr woman who has worked within community “since day one”, starting off in aged care.

She had always dreamt of working at the Galambila Medical Service: “because I’m a local, because I love the health sector and particularly because I have a passion about the health of our Elders, looking after them and giving back to them for what they did for us as we grew up.”

She leapt at the opportunity to start as an Aboriginal Health Worker, teaching herself to use computers, completing her Certificate III in Aboriginal Primary Health, and well on her way to securing her Certificate IV.

Sinclair is regarded by clients and colleagues alike as going “above and beyond” her duties, dedication that last year won her a prestigious prize in the Grace Roberts Community Development Awards. Named after Bundjalung woman Grace Roberts, who was a tireless community advocate, the awards celebrate those who have made a significant contribution to enhancing the quality of life of Aboriginal people in the Coffs Harbour area.

“Just seeing amazing changes that can happen for clients going through their health journey, when they can be empowered to live healthier lives, I love that, that’s what motivates me,” she says adding that clients are happy to come into Galambila when they’re sick because “they know they’re going to be well looked after”.

That also applies to staff, Sinclair says.

“We’re not co-workers, we’re more of a family here. We’re all here to support one another, we all work together because we know what’s most important is the client’s health. We all have that one goal: empowering our mob to live longer and healthier lives, to close that gap.”

Aboriginal Health Worker Michelle Sinclair is regarded by clients and colleagues alike as going “above and beyond” her duties, dedication that last year won her a prestigious prize in the Grace Roberts Community Development Awards. Image credit: Galambila

This article is published by Croakey Professional Services as sponsored content. It was created in collaboration with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) of NSW, which funded the #CommunityControl Success Stories series.

Written by

Marie McInerney, Croakey Professional Services

Edited by

Amy Coopes, Croakey Professional Services

Tharawal Art Therapy Program: Creating a Safe Place for Community Members to Heal

The Art Therapy Program was created by Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation in 2013 for the purpose of providing community members with a safe place to yarn. It is a non-clinical setting where vulnerable members of the community can open up about their struggles without feeling judged and discriminated against. The Program also creates a space for community members to express their feelings, using art as a medium. Through art, participants can explore the issues that have affected them in their life and begin viewing them from a different perspective to promote acceptance and healing.

Artworks created by the Tharawal Art Therapy Class

‘We decided there was a need for some of the clients that suffer with mental health in the community. They would disengage with a lot of services, so we thought that we’d look at some ideas and see what they were interested in. We did try a couple of things, but we found that the art therapy really kicked off.’ – Dannielle Gillette, Mental Health Worker at Tharawal

A large component of Aboriginal peoples social and emotional wellbeing is feeling connected to culture and community. The Program covers both bases, incorporating traditional Aboriginal art and creating connections between community members who are part of the Program. For generations Aboriginal people have used art for storytelling and to chronicle knowledge of their land and mob.  The Tharawal Art Therapy Program teaches community members traditional art from their Nation, helping them to go back to their family roots.

Flower pots and small canvas painted by the Tharawal Art Therapy Class

‘I feel more culturally connected. My mother is Anglo-white, we weren’t really cultural cause my dad was in an orphanage for stolen generations, so we didn’t know much. By coming here, I feel I’m connected. I’m able to connect with him even though we don’t know… Where his mum, where his dad is.’ – Joanne, Tharawal Art Therapy Program Class Member

On Wednesday the 16th of October 2019, during Tharawal’s celebration of Mental Health Week, the Art Therapy Program presented The Journey 2020 Calendar, made up of artworks from 12 of the class members. The artists each used different symbols and totems originating from their local community to create beautiful artworks layered with meaning. The artworks were all uniquely different, using traditional styles and emotive colours to communicate the individual journey of each of the class members.

‘We made the Calendars with the group to show them what great artists they all are, and they should all be so proud.’ – Ondra Challinger, Tharawal Art Therapy Program Coordinator

The CEO of Tharawal, Darryl Wright and Program Coordinators Danielle Gillette and Ondra Challinger presented the artworks back to the artists. It was an emotional presentation, with artists sharing their struggles with mental health and how they had affected their life trajectories.

Mental health issues that deeply effect Aboriginal communities including domestic violence, suicide and drug and alcohol addiction were themes explored in the artworks. While usually these issues are approached with shame and stigma, many of the artists were proud of the struggles they had faced and overcome in their lives. Through owning their stories and connecting to culture and community, the class members have been able to grow and heal together.

Danielle presenting The Journey 2020 Calendar created by the Tharawal Art Therapy Class

Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation is selling The Journey 2020 calendars for $20 each. The funds raised from calendar sales will go towards purchasing resources for the Program. The Journey 2020 Calendars are a thoughtful Christmas gift option for family and friends. Don’t miss out!

Please contact Ondra (ondra.challinger@tacams.com.au) or Danielle (danielle.gillette@tacams.com.au) to learn more.


Lucy Butler, AH&MRC Comms Team

Katungul’s Wellbeing Centre – Healthy mind, body, spirit

On the 24th of September AH&MRC visited Katungul’s Bateman’s Bay Service to see their Social Wellbeing Centre in action. The Wellbeing Centre focuses on community-orientated programs which support Aboriginal people with or at risk of chronic illness, mental health, addiction and social isolation. The Centre recognises that community members have varying levels of physical fitness and encourage people to get active in whatever way they can.

Community members warm-up before the exercise group begins

While group members had their screenings done by a Medical Practitioner, AH&MRC were able to chat to one of the Centre’s Personal Trainers, Joe White. Joe mentioned that while the Wellbeing Centre’s Programs are designed for people to get active, it’s more about people having fun and finding a sense of community connection. Laughter is encouraged as one of the best forms of medicine.

Katungul’s Wellbeing Centre is holistic, focusing on social and emotional wellbeing as well as physical exercise. While chatting to group members it became clear that the main reason people keep coming back is because of the sense of community and connection the programs offers, exercise is an added benefit.

The group do some stretching and have a laugh while they go about it

The session started with people hopping onto the exercise mats. Before the exercise kicked off, everyone paid respects to the Stepsister of one of the members who had recently passed away. Cultural safety is recognised throughout all of the Centre’s programs which encourage community members to share stories, history, family connections and, at times, their grief as well. A minute of silence passed and Joe instructed everyone to start stretching. The mood began to lift, and silence was quickly replaced by laughter and chatter.

The session heats up with group members instructed to squat against a wall and pass a ball back and forth

Things quickly amped up when Joe instructed everyone to squat against a wall in a line and pass an exercise ball back and forth. At this point it became clear who was new to the group and who was a regular – a few people couldn’t handle the heat.

The exercise regime concluded and it was time for the group to discuss the Mini Olympics, with an opportunity to rehearse their nominated dance. For information on the Aunty Jean’s Mini Koori Olympics please click here.

The group rehearse their dance for the Mini Koori Olympics

Most of the Wellbeing Centres programs finish up with lunch provided by the Service. On our visit, the lunch was a healthy spread of wraps, chicken, salad, rice crackers and avocados. Everyone involved – community members, program organisers and AH&MRC alike – gathered in Katungul’s conference room next to the gym and had a yarn over lunch. In closing, it became clear that Katungul’s Wellbeing Centre Programs offer more than just an exercise regime, but instead the opportunity to be part of a community of friends brought together by the common goal of getting healthy.

AH&MRC would like to thank Katungul Staff, Southern NSW Local Health District, Katungul’s Personal Trainer Joe White and all the participants on the day for welcoming us into the Service and allowing us to take photos for the 2020 Members Calendar.

Author – AH&MRC Communications Team