Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership
As we celebrate National Reconciliation Week this week, our colleagues at VACCHO are marking a significant achievement for First Nations health — the first week of operation of the Balit Durn Durn Centre of Excellence in Social and Emotional Wellbeing.
This year’s National Reconciliation Week marks several important points in Australian history. As support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart steadily grows, and Victoria reaches the half-way point in Balit Murrup, the 10-year Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework 2017-2027, the time is ripe for real and substantial change.
This year’s Reconciliation Week theme is Be Brave. Make Change. Reconciliation.org is calling on every Australian to defy their fears and take steps to tackle the work of reconciliation.
It’s a job for every individual, but it’s still heartening to see organisations taking a step forward — as VACCHO has with the launch of the Balit Durn Durn Centre.
The Balit Durn Durn Centre is a space of collaboration for the expansion of social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and mainstream health services.
It’s a place where researchers and representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can work together, ensuring the social, historical and political determinants of First Nations people’s health and wellbeing are taken into account in healthcare.
The Centre, which opened on 17 May 2022, draws together research and community expertise to develop culturally safe service approaches and coordinate best practice in service delivery.
“We want to ensure there is ‘no wrong door’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking a culturally safe SEWB service,” says VACCHO in their media release for the Centre.
The name of the Centre means ‘strong brain, mind, intellect and sense of self’ in Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung language.
The launch of the Centre is an important step in ensuring safe, effective mental health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria.
Sheree Lowe, Executive Director of the Centre, says the Balit Durn Durn Centre will be central in developing culturally safe mental health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“For too long, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria have fallen through the cracks of a fragmented and culturally unsafe mental health system,” she says. “The launch of the Balit Durn Durn Centre is an important time as it brings Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing to the forefront.”
“The Centre will focus on strengthening mental health and the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) service system by providing Aboriginal leadership, empowerment and collaboration,” says Sheree.
The Framework recognises that First Nations people in Victoria are recovering from colonisation, dispossession and cultural dislocation, separation from family and community, and removal and denial of political power. All of these things, understandably, have an impact on individual mental health and the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience health services.
“Rarely do I see a black face or an Aboriginal service where past and present trauma, and the need to heal and connect with culture and community, is recognised,” says Aunty Louise in the Balit Murrup report. “Mental illness, alcohol and drugs, and a stretched and culturally unsafe service system unable to help my daughter have left me heartbroken,” she says.
“With the exception of the police however, I feel no one hears or responds to my concerns or provides the appropriate assistance to my daughter.”
The Victorian Government, through a community reference group and other experts, listened to the experiences of people like Aunty Louise in developing the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework 2017-2027.
The Framework aims to reduce health gap between Aboriginal Victorians and the general population attributable to suicide, mental illness and psychological distress.
To achieve this, the Framework aims to embed in the foundations of health services the principles of self-determination and community control, healing and protective factors, culturally capable services, person-centred care partnerships and community engagement.
The Balit Durn Durn Centre directly addresses the aims and principles of the Framework.
“The launch of the Balit Durn Durn Centre is a historic moment for community and will see culture front and centre as a key protective factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” says VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher.
“Aboriginal stories, truth-telling and culture are at the heart of healing. They are our best medicine.”