“We’re going back on country with the men to strengthen their mentality towards their culture, their law, their language, but more so for medical benefits.
We have a team of medical officers who come out, male of course, who do checks on them so they can talk freely about their health, sitting around campfires.
We talk about needs in their community and just talk about things as a men’s group that we won’t be able to talk about in town or around family and stuff.”
Lomas Amini and Ernie Dingo will present Camping on Country at OCHRE Day Summit in Melbourne 29 -30 August
This year’s NACCHO Ochre Day men’s health conference is only a week away so be sure to register now
TV personality Ernie Dingo is hoping to close the gap in remote men’s health by empowering them to improve their physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.
- Ernie Dingo is working with BushTV to run camps for Indigenous men around Australia
- The men have yarning circles, cultural activities and health checks
- The program aims to empower men to improve their own health by strengthening culture, law and language
The Yamatji man from Western Australia is the chairman of Indigenous media organisation BushTV, which is running a program called Camping On Country.
“We’re going back on country with the men to strengthen their mentality towards their culture, their law, their language, but more so for medical benefits,” Dingo said.
“We have a team of medical officers who come out, male of course, who do checks on them so they can talk freely about their health, sitting around campfires.
“We talk about needs in their community and just talk about things as a men’s group that we won’t be able to talk about in town or around family and stuff.”
The program has received $1 million from the Federal Government to run 20 camps over two years.
They have so far been held across northern Australia in places including Kununurra, Borroloola, Tennant Creek, and Kowanyama.
Strategies to close the gap had so far not worked well, Dingo said.
“The elders don’t want non-Indigenous people telling them what to,” he said.
“So this is Aboriginal men talking to Aboriginal men, rather than government coming out and they have to put up with the dry heat.
“We video interviews with [the men] about what they need and use that as a message stick to take to the minister for Aboriginal affairs.”
BushTV has also partnered with Sydney-based medical research organisation The George Institute, which will conduct longitudinal research using data collected from the camps.
‘Something special will happen’
Dingo said it was a privilege to take a young man with disabilities to a recent camp near Kowanyama.
“He’s a Kowanyama boy who was taken away at the age of two because of his disabilities; he needs care 24/7 and he’s in Cairns,” he said.
“He has never been to his country [since], and to be blessed on his tribal ground, that was very special to see.
“People moved heaven and earth to get him there.
“He was feeling the earth around him, a bit of a paddle in the creek and it was a real blessing to see.
“We have great moments like that at every camp — something special will happen.”
‘Don’t leave it too long’
Dingo, 63, has also struggled with depression and said it had been good for him to share his experiences with other men.
“You just suffer, and when you knock-off work and go home, that’s when it hurts the most,” he said.
“So I get to talk about a lot of stuff like that with a lot of people in similar situations and it’s making me stronger.
“It’s a good thing for me as well to be able to listen to people going through the same stuff that I’m going through and realise, not so much just zip it up and keep working, but actually spending time talking to people and making yourself feel better.”
He urged men struggling with problems to seek help.
“Don’t leave it too long, you can’t let things fester — it’s better to carry the scar than carry the the wound ”