Introduction by Croakey: Funding for the Perth-based operation of a highly respected Aboriginal led program for cultural, social and emotional wellbeing will end this week after just over one year of operation across a number of sites.
The National Empowerment Project (NEP) Cultural Social and Emotional Wellbeing (CSEWB) Program was developed in response to high rates of psychological distress, self-harm and suicide among Indigenous people and communities.
Former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley has described it as “one of the most innovative” mental health and suicide prevention programs in Australia.
However, the Western Australian Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) has confirmed that funding for the NEP CSEWB program being run in Perth by Relationships Australia WA (RAWA) in partnership with Langford Aboriginal Association will end on 30 June 2018.
WAPHA general manager, Linda Richardson told Croakey:
The National Empowerment Project’s Cultural Social and Emotional Wellbeing program is designed as a limited term capacity building initiative. It was funded by WA Primary Health Alliance, via its PHNs Perth North and Perth South, from March 2017 until June 2018.
We are actively pursuing renewed funding options to allow Relationships Australia and the Langford Aboriginal Association to deliver a similar program in other areas of Perth.
We are in ongoing discussions with both organisations and will provide them with a definitive response as soon as possible.
The NEP CSEW program has been driven by Indigenous mental health leaders, Professor Pat Dudgeon, Co-chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, and Adele Cox, National Senior Consultant to the National Empowerment Project.
Watch them, along with community and program representatives and Fiona Stanley, talk about it in this short video.
In the article below, Angela Ryder, Senior Manager for Aboriginal Services at Relationships Australia WA, says evaluation of the NEP shows it has “significantly changed” the lives of participants and their families.
She says it highlights the need for greater government commitment to services and programs which address the social determinants influencing cultural, social and emotional wellbeing, which makes the decision to end funding in Perth so disappointing. She says:
“It is difficult to comprehend and disappointing that this grassroots program, that is making such significant changes across our community, will no longer be available.”
Angela Ryder writes:
The National Empowerment Project (NEP) Cultural Social and Emotional Wellbeing (CSEWB) Program is an innovative, Aboriginal-led, and needs-based initiative strengthened by involving local communities and local community co-researchers in the consultations, design, implementation and evaluation.
The NEP CSEWB Program has been delivered in the Queensland regional towns of Kuranda and Cherbourg over the past four years and in the Perth metropolitan region over the past year in three areas: Kwinana and Rockingham, Balga, Koondoola and Girrawheen, and Langford, Gosnells and Kelmscott.
Relationships Australia WA in partnership with Langford Aboriginal Association (LAA) received funding of $400,000 to run the program across those sites over the past year. The funding body recently indicated they are not re-funding the program despite having positive and progressive discussions for several months.
The NEP is an empowerment project that builds the resilience of Aboriginal community members. The program was developed from input by Aboriginal people across Australia. The program is specifically for Aboriginal people and is delivered by Aboriginal people. It includes the formation of a community reference group, delivery of 12 modules followed by ongoing life-skills groups and local community development projects undertaken by NEP participants.
Within the 9 month delivery period of the program in Perth, approximately 100 Aboriginal community members expressed interest in the program, with 90 signing on.
Of the 46 who graduated at the end of the initial nine month period, the majority represent large family groups and have strong connection to community who will in turn empower their own families and communities.
The following are Perth NEP participant comments recorded during the course of the program:
“Yes it helped. I’ve always been shy, scared, worried and nervous about speaking up in front of people – meetings, training, workshops. I stress a lot and it was good to learn how to manage it – RESPOND not REACT. Now I feel more CONFIDENT because I’m passionate about what the NEP CSEWB program delivered.”
“I have a a better understanding of relationships for me and my family and since doing this program I’ve been able to find myself again which was very hard before.”
“Keep delivering the program to as many people as possible. It has so much potential.”
“I loved the program, I love what it means and I love what it stands for. I learnt a lot from it. I find it very helpful and useful.”
“Excellent. Yes I have enjoyed the program. The content is very valuable and meaningful especially with the cultural context. The program is very informative and life giving, it is transforming – gives a reality check.”
“The course is really good it helps with the way you speak and your social skills. I do enjoy socializing with different people, and it has also helped at home with the way I speak.”
“I have learnt so much and I will keep on learning.”
“It has helped a lot with the way I speak to my children. I explain to my kids and tell them how they should talk to each other and there are less dramas.”
“I have learnt a lot about myself and how to handle complicated situations that I am put in.”
The following is a participant’s feedback using the Most Significant Change evaluation tool.
Based on evaluations the NEP CSEWB Program significantly changed the lives of participants and their families in various constructive and affirming ways to bring about positive outcomes. The extent of significant changes reported are compelling, and they highlight the need for greater government commitment to services and programs which address the social determinants influencing cultural, social and emotional wellbeing.
Empowerment and creating strong supportive relationships between participants are also objectives of the program, as is working collaboratively with other organisations including local government, local not-for-profit community organisations and state and federal agencies.
It is difficult to comprehend and disappointing that this grassroots program, that is making such significant changes across our community, will no longer be available.