Alice Springs Indigenous Family Wellbeing Program

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Categories associated with best practice:

  • Community
  • Health Equity
  • Individual
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  • Young Adult (ages 19-24) icon
  • English

Overview

Australian Indigenous family wellbeing

Promotion of personal empowerment and resilience in Indigenous families.

Aboriginal women represent three per cent of all women in Australia, yet they make up six times that amount in family violence victims. One woman in Melbourne is determined to shed light on their stories and ensure they are not forgotten, and a group of women in Alice Springs is at the forefront of a movement tackling family violence in their community. The Family Wellbeing Program aims to improve the emotional and social wellbeing of Aboriginal people. It assists in the healing process for those caught in an ongoing cycle of loss and grief, while providing people with the skills to move forward and create positive changes in their lives. The original Family Wellbeing Program was created in South Australia in the early 90’s as a response to the high suicide rate in Aboriginal communities. Over time it developed into a structured course, still retaining its therapeutic focus. It encourages new ways of dealing with life’s challenges and important knowledge and skills can be acquired.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORTING INFORMATION

Tangentyere Council has offered a Family Wellbeing Program since 1996. The main way in which the Family Wellbeing Program operates is through providing structured courses which are divided into five modules, with the entire course being accredited and able to be completed over six months (approximately 40 weeks at 3 hours/week). People may gain a great deal out of doing any or all of the standalone modules.

Facilitators create a supportive and confidential group environment where honesty is possible and fears, unresolved grief, past trauma, and often abuse can be dealt with. It has proven to be a powerful empowerment tool for many. Within Family Wellbeing it is also recognized that many people have the potential to be leaders and counsellors themselves, and in the full course basic counselling skills are taught. In this way the Family Wellbeing Program can create a ripple effect with positive outcomes for all relationships – within families, communities and workplaces. While many of the causes of social dysfunction belong in the greater social and political arena, the Family Wellbeing Program teaches people in the short term to take greater control over immediate factors influencing their lives, and in the longer term, to advocate for improved community wellbeing.

Once a rigorous evaluation was completed in 2000, three lessons were uncovered for the use of empowerment interventions to improve health conditions, particularly among socially disadvantaged groups: 1) A need to adopt an ecological approach that simultaneously addresses empowerment at multiple settings or levels. 2) A need to ensure that such programs reach a critical mass of the target group. 3) Policy-makers and practitioners need to take a longer-term approach to empowerment interventions, including properly resourced longitudinal studies to document and enhance the evidence base for such interventions. One striking quote shared from the evaluation stated: “‘Family wellbeing has taught me a lot about myself and how to control my emotions, actions, etc. I have now become a new person and I have planned to do things for myself and I have now gone in to meditation. This new way has made me change my diet, exercise more than I used to. I’ll continue listening to people who empower themselves in a positive way’ — Family Wellbeing course participant.”

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