In this post to mark White Ribbon Day, Healing Foundation CEO Richard Weston writes about a men’s healing program in the Northern Territory that is working to reduce violence in seven communities through co-design and a focus on assisting men to improve their social and emotional wellbeing.
Richard Weston writes:
On White Ribbon Day, it is timely to reflect on what is working to reduce violence in our communities and how we can learn from this to tackle violence wherever it occurs.
Since 2014 a men’s healing project in seven Darwin town communities has been making headway against a backdrop of significant trauma, poverty and inadequate infrastructure in the communities.
Sixty nine men participated in the Strong Men Strong Communities project in Amangal, Acacia, Belyuen, One Mile Dam, Bagot, Knuckey’s Lagoon and Palmerston Indigenous Village over a two year period.
Across the seven communities there has been an increase in participants’ confidence and self-esteem and men are reporting improved coping skills, enabling them to seek support and better deal with stressors in their families and communities. Men have increased their use of medical services and are seeking out counselling, alcohol and other drug support programs and healing services.
Eight men have found employment or commenced training over the period.
As healing emerges in the communities some of the senior men are beginning to take on advisory and senior roles and younger men are starting to attend the program.
The project develops men’s healing leadership with a focus on assisting the men to improve their social and emotional wellbeing. The men are addressing issues like alcohol and other drug use, unemployment and violence by increasing access to culturally appropriate support services and involving men in building relationships and supporting their emerging leadership through activities to enhance their skills.
The project’s success is in part due to it being co-designed in partnership with men in each community. Men were involved in identifying key issues affecting their communities and solutions to these issues, which then guided the design of their local activities.
The results this program is achieving against enormous odds demonstrates how partnering with communities to address local issues can create a platform for success.
The men’s strong engagement in the program’s development ensured they took ownership and responsibility for both the delivery and the results. They have a greater stake in the program’s success because they own it.
On White Ribbon Day of all days, this is something governments and service providers around Australia can learn from in addressing violence and other issues in our communities.
Richard Weston is the CEO of the Healing Foundation www.healingfoundation.org.au