Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need access to culturally safe and secure clinical health services that meet their mental health needs. These can be culturally responsive mainstream services, or clinical services – such as psychological services – offered through Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations. Clinical mental health services for Indigenous people are likely to be most effective when they include additional support, such as interpreting services, and include Indigenous clinicians on staff.
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Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia (AIWA)
Studies show that poor communication between healthcare providers and clients can have major adverse consequences on health, mental health and wellbeing outcomes. High-quality intercultural communication is a core component of effective, culturally secure service delivery. improved intercultural communication can be achieved through the use of professional interpreters, to relay information to increase health literacy and the uptake of health care, and improved clinical outcomes and satisfaction with care.
Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia Aboriginal Corporation (AIWAAC) has over 100 qualified, accredited interpreters covering more than 40 Aboriginal languages in WA – engagements with interpreter services enhances clinical services.
Carbal Medical Centre
Carbal Medical Services (Carbal) is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Care Organisation (ATSICCHO) which operates in Toowoomba and the Southern Downs area in Queensland.
Phone: 1300 379 558
Toowoomba Medical Centre: 125 Russell Street, Toowoomba Phone: (07) 4639 7300
Warwick Medical Centre: 55 Wood Street, Warwick Phone (07) 4688 0500
NDIS/PHaMs Support Services: 104 South Street Toowoomba Phone: (07) 4639 7400
Carbal originated from the efforts of Aboriginal people to establish a culturally safe and secure health service in Toowoomba that could comprehensively address the health needs. It provides comprehensive culturally safe, responsive primary health care service including clinical and population health programs, that are integrated with other complementary service providers. Carbal Medical Services cover the Darling Downs, Southern Downs and Goondiwinidi regions, with five offices located across the regions and provide transport to clients to access services. Services include:
» General Practice Clinic
» Allied Health
» Aboriginal Health Workers
» Strong Fathers Support
» Tackling Indigenous Smoking
» Hearing Health
» Drug and Alcohol program
» Vision Testing
» Child and Maternal Health
» Patient Transport
» Visiting Specialists
Carbal Medical Services aims to provide holistic world class medical and health care services towards achieving equity in health outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who fall under Carbal’s service area. Carbal strives to provide ‘Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care in a Caring and Confidential Environment’.
1. Delivers services to approximately 1300 clients.
2. Established a Food Bank within their site.
3. Serve more than 2000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients at Warwick Clinic.
4. In 2018, a Carbal staff member completed her Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care, and will be an Aboriginal Health Worker for Carbal.
5. Printed the seventh book in their culturally safe, preventative health education series that is distributed to schools and other organisations throughout the region and interstate.
6. Self-funded a Cultural Awareness Training program (Carbal CAT) to deliver to non-health organisations and primary health (accredited with the RACGP and ACRRM) to ensure cultural competency across a range of services.
7. Injects a significant amount of self generated funds to support community groups and events including NAIDOC, Murri Court, Reconciliation Week, Carbal Reconciliation Community Choir.
8. 2018-19 financials reflect growth in self-generated revenue of 37% which funds identification and addressing of health related priorities.
1. Partners with research bodies to deliver research based projects through Carbal Medical Service facilities.
2. Continuously redesigning its processes to ensure clients’ medical, health, social and cultural needs are met.
3. A dedicated multidisciplinary team working to close the gap between health outcomes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and non-Indigenous population.
4. Operation Manual with Quality Policy including
a) commitment to quality and continual improvement, and
b) conducting Indigenous Health research to ensure delivery of culturally appropriate primary health care to improve indigenous health outcomes.
5. Website portal link for client and stakeholder feedback.
6. Involved in Aboriginal Health research projects and collection and reporting of data to enhance decision-making processes prioritising funding.
Carbal is established by Aboriginal people and is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Care Organisation (ATSICCHO). It meets the CBPATSISP criteria for inclusion.
Darwin Indigenous Men's Service (NT)
Darwin Indigenous Men’s service focuses on men’s mental health by provide individual mentoring, family violence counselling and education programs and healing activities for Indigenous men.
Darwin Indigenous Men’s service. (2022). Annual Report 2021 – 2022. https://irp.cdn-website.com/76a54821/files/uploaded/DIMS%20Annual%20Report%202022.pdf
Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (WA)
Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) is an organisation of Aboriginal people, controlled by Aboriginal people, to provide high quality healthcare to Aboriginal people.
60 Rifle Range Road, Rangeway WA 6530
(08) 9956 6555
14-16 Rushton Street Carnarvon, WA 6701
(08) 9947 2200
56 Attwood Street, Mount Magnet, WA 6638
(08) 9940 3222
GRAMS is a medical service that operates a range of programs and services across three towns – Geraldton, Carnarvon and Mt Magnet.
GRAMS’s vision is to be recognised for their role in Aboriginal people living healthy lives, enriched by strong living culture, dignity, and justice. GRAMS provides various programs and services including clinical, social and emotional wellbeing, healthy living and suicide pre- and post-vention.
To be updated
GRAMS is an Aboriginal-led organisation that provides culturally safe programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Gunawirra - Clinic on Country (NSW)
Gunawirra works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children to provide a range of clinical services such as psychotherapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in Sydney. They also provide training to better equip preschool teachers to address the emotional, health, and cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Gunawirra seeks to build capacity and confidence towards healing, resilience and self-reliance by working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children.
According to the 2021 Annual Report, Gunawirra has made waves through their programs 1:
– completed 1723 service delivery hours with 255 people under the Young Aboriginal Mothers Groups Program
– completed 1431 service delivery hours with 1255 people under the 5 Big Ideas program
– provided 162 hours of teacher training and cultural learning
Gunawirra also launched a collection of cultural videos aimed at reaching Aboriginal families during the pandemic, sharing knowledge with preschool children, and enlightening the wider community on topics including Dreamtime stories, Aboriginal tools, and native plants. These videos had over 4000 views and 5 star ratings by all attendees, with people tuning in from all over Australasia, and won the Best Technology Achievement by an Indigenous Australian in the Australian Not-for-Profit Technology Awards. There are have plans to continue releasing more cultural webinars covering topics such as kinship and identity, and traditional native food uses.
Western Sydney University conducted an evaluation on the Young Aboriginal Mother’s Group in 2015 by personally attending the group sessions and interviewing the mothers taking part in the group 2. Overall, attending the group had benefits that could be grouped into 2 main themes: (1) Purpose of the group: Supporting and facilitating Aboriginal motherhood and (2) the Workings of the group. For more information on the evaluation, click here.
Under the theme of Purpose of the group: Supporting and facilitating Aboriginal motherhood, the evaluation found that the group met its purpose of supporting and facilitating motherhood. Staff attributed this to Gunawirra “creating the conditions to encourage the emotional engagement of the mothers with their children beyond meeting practical care needs”. The presence of the staff was also paramount in “encouraging the mothers’ interest and curiousity in their children” as they helped “giving (give) meaning to the children’s behaviour”.
The group also served as a source of peer support and countered the social isolation that the mothers experienced. The mothers who attended the group spoke of the “support they gained from the other mothers as normalising and empowering them in their experiences of motherhood.”. Understanding that others are going through similar issues helped to remove the “stigma that they (the mothers) felt as young Aboriginal mothers.”.
The group also served as a “space to share their knowledge and experiences of motherhood” around “practical care tasks as well as accounts of how to relate to children”, and gave the mothers “an opportunity to have a break and some time out for themselves during their week.”. Finally, the group served as a mechanism for cultural transmission where mothers “became more confident and proud of their identities as Aboriginal women over time” as they engaged in “Aboriginal painting within the group, an outing to see rock paintings, weaving…”.
Under the theme of the Workings of the group, staff reported that they were able to form “trusting relationships for developing a safe space for the women to share ‘deeper’ emotional experiences.”. The trusting relationship formed between staff and mother provided some “emotional support to create the conditions to strengthen attachment between mothers and children and facilitate emotional capacity.”. Staff were able to form these trusting relationships by simply “holding space” or “validating the mothers’ emotional experiences, as well as their positive mothering practices.”.
Therefore, the evaluation found that “the mothers’ group serve function in terms of support, facilitating mother-child relationships and the development of the women’s construction of motherhood and themselves as mothers.”.
The Five Big Ideas program was also evaluated by Western Sydney University in 2016 by administering surveys and conducting interviews with the pre-school teachers and directors’ perspectives of the Five Big Ideas program 4.
Overall, the feedback on the Five Big Ideas program was found to be largely positive. The pre-school teachers noted changes in the children after going through content such as ‘personal hygiene’, ‘nutrition’, and ‘self-help skills’. In terms of personal hygiene, staff noted there was increased motivation to brush teeth and an increased desire to complete these tasks by themsevles, giving the children greater confidence and independence. With nutrition, staff noted that the children responded positively to vegetables and ate more vegatables. Staff also reported that children actively rejected unhealthy food such as sweets at school and at home. With the decreased intake of sweets, staff noticed that there was an increase in concentration and reduction in energy, especially in the hyperactive children.
Pre-school teachers appreciated the support that Gunawirra provided, in terms of receiving weekly training and support through Skype. Staff also felt that the art therapy sessions allowed the children to express their trauma in different ways, especially for children with additional needs. Staff also managed to relieve some of their stress through art therapy and learn new ways to manage the children from the art therapist. Although the costs of having an art therapist was high, the benefits outweighed the costs as staff felt the need for more sessions.
Visitations by the cultural advisor was also found to be helpful for both non-aboriginal and aboriginal staff. Non-aboriginal staff reported receiving feedback on how culturally aware they are and gained confidence to teach about Aboriginal cultur, while Aboriginal staff found that the addition of the cultural aspect to the program affirmed the role of culture in the children’s lives. Aboriginal staff reported that the cultural advisor served as a form of a “role model to the children.. taking culture to each of the centres”. Staff also mentioned wanting additional cultural training in their feedback about the program.
To read the evaluation report, click here.
Gunawirra is assessed as:
– having Indigenous ownership as more than half of its Board members have Aboriginal background.
– having community leadership as they partner with local indigenous and non-indigenous pre-schools such as Dalaigur and Scribbly Gum Pre-School.
– undergoing ongoing service evaluation. Their Young Aboriginal Mothers’ Groups and Five Big Ideas program were recently evaluated in a study conducted by Western Sydney University. The Young Aboriginal Mothers’ Group program is also going to be re-evaluated in 2021.
Creating better health for communities
Ma-Guwag Suicide Prevention
- Access to cultural activities including ‘on country’,
- Access to wellbeing groups like YERINFIT,
- Therapeutic supports,
- Group training to better understand mental health and supports available,
- Access to information and resources, including after hours.
The Ma-Guwag official program was launch in April 2021 at Berkeley Vale with approximately 60 community members. This day incorporated Walk About Barber services and a presentation from Brian Dowd, The Glen Dancers providing cultural immersion through dance, and a heartfelt testimony given by a respected community member about her journey and suicide. Ma-Guwag continues to engage the community across many mediums mostly via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and their Yerin Eleanor Duncan website. Their Facebook posts provide suicide prevention and mental health management information, reaching 4,000 people, and they have 1,000 followers on Instagram. Throughout COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Ma-Guwag moved outreach services online, and conducted wellness checks via phone calls. In May 2021, the Ma-Guwag team was invited to present at an AH&MRC Symposium in Sydney. Ma-Guwag also presented to young people and adults about the importance of being connected to culture, health and wellbeing at numerous schools, Men’s Groups and Wellness Clinics over the past year.
Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services is a non-for-profit, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate health care to their community, demonstrating Indigenous ownership. Their Board of Management is elected by the locals. Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services partners with various local community services to serve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on Darkinjung Country, demonstrating its community leadership. Some of their partners are Gudjagang Ngara li – dhi Aboriginal Corporation and Bungree Aboriginal Organisation. Finally, Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services offers the opportunity to Aboriginal individuals to become members, attend their annual general meetings and participate in board elections, as evidence of their community leadership and building capacity of the local community.
Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation (NT)
The Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation (MHAC) provides healthcare to Aboriginal people from the bushland of East Arnhem Land. Its vision is to build self-determining Yolŋu (Aboriginal people from the North-East of Arnhem Land), with a mission of building Aboriginal community-controlled healthcare services and public health programs across the entire East-Arnhem region. They provide walk-in health and mental health services, fixed clinics and outreach workers for our communities with an emphasis on preventative and acute care.
Ngangganawili Aboriginal Health Service (NAHS) (WA)
Ngangganawili Aboriginal Health Service (NAHS) was formed to provide health and medical services to the residents of the Wiluna shire and other people from outlying areas, the mining industry, the pastoral stations and tourists visiting the town.
The NAHS aims to provide health and medical services to the residents of the Wiluna shire and other people from outlying areas, the mining industry, the pastoral stations and tourists visiting the town.
Ngaanyatiarra Health Service (WA, NT, SA)
The Ngaanyatijarra Health Service (NHS) is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service across Ngaanyatjarra Lands, in Western Australia (near the Northern Territory/South Australian borders). It is Australian General Practice Accreditation Limited, and is informed and supported by an Office in Alice Springs. Primary care includes clinical services, public health, and aged/disability care. The Ngaanyatjarra Health Service aims to work in a malparara way [two-way learning] as a part of the Ngaanyatjarra community to promote the health and wellbeing of people in the Lands, ensuring a professional health service that is accountable, culturally appropriate, anticipates and responds to the community’s changing health needs and priorities and takes a collaborative approach with other service providers to deliver best practice services.
Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) (WA)
Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service located in the East Pilbara region delivering services in communities located in the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts. They provide culturally responsive and appropriate fully comprehensive primary health care services in communities of Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, and Newman.
1 Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service. (2022). Annual Report. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://frrr.org.au/blog/tag/ngangganawili-aboriginal-health-services/
Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service (SAMHS) Metropolitan
The Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service (SAMHS) Metropolitan supports both Aboriginal consumers and carers in accessing mainstream mental health services, and in better meeting the needs of Aboriginal people. This service is located in Perth, Western Australia.
Located at De Grey House, Graylands Health Campus, SAMHS Metropolitan provides state-wide consultation/liaison with service providers and the community; advocacy for Aboriginal consumers; and operates as a peak body for Aboriginal mental health professionals. SAMHS Metropolitan operates with cultural integrity using strategies to include brokering of elders, and traditional healers to participate in particular clinical cases.
SAMHS Metropolitan is an adult mental health service that provides a ‘whole of family’ approach to service delivery.
Contact: Michael Mitchell, Program Manager, Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service Metropolitan
Phone: 08 9235 2400 Email:SAMHSM@health.wa.gov.au
Spinifex Health Service (WA)
Spinifex Health Service provides culturally aware primary health care for the Tjuntjuntjara community living on the Spinifex lands north-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. It is owned and operated by the Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation. It specialises in chronic disease management, child and maternal health, disability, aged care, and social and emotional wellbeing.
The community are the traditional custodians of the Spinifex Native Title Determination Area which covers 55 000 Km2. The isolation of the community means that the health service is essential to the community continuing to thrive. The service has three remote area nurse positions who specialise in child/maternal health, chronic disease management and continuous quality improvement. They are supported by visiting eye and dental clinicians and allied health professionals as well as the Royal Flying Doctor Service when needed. Spinifex Health Service complies with the requirements of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, ensuring the quality and safety of the service.
The service provides care to the Tjuntjuntjara community, which consists of approximately 150 people. Although small, the service is essential to the longevity and health of the community, which is widely considered a very strong one.
Wollotuka Wellbeing offers dedicated resources and individual counselling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the University of Newcastle, supporting them to navigate life as a student and beyond.
Wollotuka Wellbeing is an innovative program that holistically addresses multiple aspects of the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people engaged in tertiary study. It offers a valuable template to other universities for the range of cultural and behavioural support services that may be valuable in supporting the educational success of Indigenous students, and for how to develop and implement these services through co-design with students and community members.