NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Building a sustainable SEWB workforce

feature tile native leaves on bark; text 'Research identifies ways to grow a sustainable, empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing workforce'

The image in the feature tile is from the cover of the KAMS and TIMHWB booklet Social and Emotional Wellbeing: A Welcome Guide for the Aboriginal Workforce – updated July 2022.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

“It’s Us, Or Maybe No One”

Recent research has explored experiences of Aboriginal peoples employed in Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) service delivery to identify enablers, challenges, and requirements of growing a sustainable, and empowered SEWB workforce. The researchers used a yarning methodology with seven Aboriginal SEWB workers purposively recruited from ACCHOs (including Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services(KAMS), Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service, Derby Aboriginal Health Services, Yuru Yungi Medical Services, and Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service) located across the Kimberley region of WA.

The researchers concluded that SEWB services, as delivered by Aboriginal peoples within ACCHOs, have great potential to comprehensively meet the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal peoples and communities. To optimally undertake their role, Aboriginal SEWB staff need to: have a clear understanding of their role; good relationships within their workplace; relevant sector knowledge; a strong sense of cultural safety within the workplace; and access to meaningful professional development. Understanding the barriers and enablers experienced by SEWB staff provides a platform to meaningfully develop the future Aboriginal SEWB workforce, and delivery of SEWB services.

You can view the research article It’s Us, Or Maybe No One’: Yarning With Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Workers From the  Kimberley Region of Western Australia in full here and the relevant Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet webpage here.

You can also access a KAMS and the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing project (TIMHWB) project developed Social and Emotional Wellbeing: A Welcome Guide for the Aboriginal Workforce developed by KAMS and the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project here.

tile with graphic Aboriginal art orange, avocado, brown colours; text 'Social and Emotional Wellbeing'

Image source: Aboriginal Health Council of WA Social and Emotional Wellbeing webpage.

Local decision-making leading to better health

Positive outcomes are being observed in the community of Groote Archipelago coming as a result of local decision-making over health, law and justice, education, housing, and economic development.  Throughout 2022 the NT government and Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC) collaborated, utilising the Charles Darwin University Local Decision Making Ground Up Monitoring and Evaluation Final Report, along with extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders in Groote Archipelago to develop the The Groote Archipelago Local Decision Making Progress Report 2018–22, available here.

The Progress Report shows that in just four years there has been significant progress across the Local Decision Making priority areas, with just two of the highlights being:

  • Anindilyakwa Housing Aboriginal Corporation, a nationally accredited community housing provider which employs over 12 Traditional Owners, now managing over 350 community houses on the Groote Archipelago in a culturally appropriate and community led wa
  • the establishment of the Warnumamalya Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, involving a passionate group of Anindilyakwa Traditional Owners. They will advise NT Health though a new Health Advisory Board and lead key priorities in the health and wellbeing space, including aged care and disability support, mental health and substance abuse.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Local decision-making leading to better health outcomes for community in full click here.

Urban mob yarning about FASD prevention

In Australia, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a largely hidden disability that is currently under-recognised, under-resourced, and under- or misdiagnosed. Unsurprisingly, efforts to prevent FASD in urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are lacking. Further, mainstream approaches are not compatible with diverse and distinct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of approaching family, pregnancy, and parenting life.

To support the creation of culturally appropriate and relevant FASD prevention services for urban Indigenous people, a research team sought to understand local Indigenous perspectives, experiences, and priorities for supporting healthy and alcohol-free pregnancies. Participant yarns highlighted the importance of place, community, culture, and family, and some of the structural factors influencing women’s health behaviors during preconception, pregnancy, and parenting years. Insights from the yarns align with an Indigenous health determinants perspective and emerging Indigenous approaches to FASD prevention.

Together, they call for health interventions that are Indigenous-led, culturally centered, holistic, relational, and strengths-based. The findings offer a critical road map for reorientating mainstream FASD prevention work beyond the narrow confines of individualized behavioral change approaches that are prevalent in public health and medical models. Rather, Indigenous approaches to FASD prevention support harm-reduction strategies that are tailored to the lived realities and priorities of urban Indigenous women and their families. This reorientation has important implications for all professionals who work in this space and contributes to the broader movement toward Indigenous justice, recovery, and healing from colonisation.

You can access the research article “Our Mothers Have Handed That to Us. Her Mother Has Handed That to Her”: Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Yarning about Community Wellbeing, Healthy Pregnancies, and the Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in full here and the relevant Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet webpage here.

Trauma-informed response practices

A practice guide Trauma-informed practices for responding to difficult situations. has been developed by the Sydney: Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs Agencies. The practice guide contains information and advice on providing safe and inclusive service environments for people accessing support, their networks, and staff, and provides practical tips for preventing and responding to difficult situations using a trauma-informed, person-centered, and strength-based approach.

The practice guide discusses:

  • understanding trauma and its effects
  • core principles of trauma-informed care
  • the importance of language
  • responding to difficult situations
  • worker wellbeing
  • links to other resources, information and support services.

The guide includes feedback from people with lived experience of accessing non-government services and what they consider to be important tips for best practice trauma-informed care.

You can access the Trauma-informed practices for responding to difficult situations practice guide here and the relevant Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet webpage here.

Organisations lack focus on diversity and inclusion

Although over three-quarters of HR professionals believe diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is either fairly important or very important to the future success of their organisation research reveals only half of Human Resources (HR) professionals say they have observed their organisation’s leaders prioritising DEI in the workplace. In a survey the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) shared that almost half of HR professionals surveyed said their organisation lacked focus on DEI, with DEI initiatives in Australia focused largely on gender disparity. Less emphasis is placed on under-represented groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living with disability, LGBTQIA+ people, and those from lower socio-economic status households.

atWork Australia is one company that works with clients to improve diversity and inclusion in Australian businesses, and find creative solutions so everyone can find employment that is right for them. William (Billy) a 57 year-old, proud Kaniyang Elder from WA is one of the almost 11.6m Australians living with a chronic health condition. After working in a number of casual positions, Billy sought support from atWork Australia’s Katanning office in January 2022, hoping to secure full time employment. Billy had no significant work experience when he met with atWork Australia Job Coach, Chelsey, to develop a tailored plan and goals that reflected his interests and values. With Chelsey’s support to build his confidence and acknowledge his capabilities, Billy applied for a position at the local cultural and visitor centre.

To view The National Tribune article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people who identify as having disability or are neurodiverse are among the most underrepresented groups… in full click here. You can also read more about Billy’s story at the atWork Australia’s webpage Billy celebrates a year in meaningful employment here.

atWork Australia logo & portrait of Kaniyang Elder Billy

atWork Australia client, Kaniyang Elder Billy. Image source: atWork Australia.

Target 120 program for Derby

Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation will lead the rollout of the State Government’s $43m youth offending reduction program, Target 120, in Derby, WA. Announced yesterday, the local not-for-profit, which has been operating in the Derby community for more than 20 years, will become just the second ACCO to take over local management of the program after MG Corporation took the reigns in Kununurra in June last year.

Those delivering the program work across services and agencies to tackle the factors that can increase a young person’s likelihood of offending, which include substance abuse, poor attendance at school, lack of housing, family and domestic violence, trauma and mental health issues. To date, nearly half of the participants in Target 120 have had no further contact with police since their commencement in the program.

Launched in 2017, Target 120 is an early intervention program that aims to reduce rates of youth reoffending by connecting at-risk young people with services and support. Kimberley MLA Divina D’Anna said locally-led initiatives were the best way to address the complex issues of youth crime. “I look forward to seeing Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation working closely with local young people and their families to help make a positive difference in their lives,” she said.

To view The National Indigenous Times article Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation to deliver Target 120 program in Derby to reduce youth offending in full click here. and a related article in the Broome Advertiser here.

MG Corp youth program manager Marcia Gerrard, Community Services Minister Sabine Winton and Kimberley MLA Divina D'Anna

MG Corp youth program manager Marcia Gerrard, Community Services Minister Sabine Winton and Kimberley MLA Divina D’Anna. Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

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