Why there is a need for Wayapa Wuurrk Traditional Aboriginal Mentoring and Wellness Programs
In late 2014, the Productivity Commission’s Report on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage highlighted cultural mentoring as best practice for creating real and lasting outcomes for youth.
Alongside the promotion of cultural and heritage education, learning languages, reconnection to and caring for Country, cultural mentoring is now viewed as a key contributor to higher levels of health, well-being and socio-economic outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
Wayapa Wuurrrk Mentoring Programs bring these key success factors together in support of children and young people.
“The destruction of Indigenous Australian culture has resulted in ongoing grief, despair and confusion including the disruption of traditional gender roles (especially for men), cultural values and pride, disruption of kinship networks and support systems, and confusion of people forced to balance between two, often irreconcilable cultures” Identity, Voice, Place: Suicide Prevention for Indigenous Australians – A Social and Emotional Well Well being Approach, The University of Queensland 2009
“Indigenous young people face the additional challenges of dispossession, discontinuity of culture and intergenerational trauma. A strong connection to culture – coupled with high self-esteem, a strong sense of autonomy, and with living in cohesive, functioning families and communities – can be protective factors that result in Indigenous young people choosing productive life pathways. Mentoring is a relationship intervention strategy that can assist in building some of these protective factors. A growing body of research demonstrates that mentoring can have powerful and lasting positive effects in improving behavioural, academic and vocational outcomes for at-risk youth and, to a more limited extent, in reducing contact with the juvenile justice systems. In an Indigenous context, mentoring is a particularly promising initiative because it fits well with Indigenous teaching and learning styles and can help to build strong collective ties within a community.”
Closing the Gap Clearinghouse Resource Sheet on “Mentoring Programs for Indigenous Youth at Risk” September 2013
In a society accustomed to spending approximately $115,000 per year, per individual for incarceration, the importance of preventative and diversionary programs cannot be underestimated. Across Australia, community leaders express their knowledge and belief that investment in children, young people and families for cultural strengthening is not only socially, culturally and ethically right, but economically sound. Our intention is to advocate for justice reinvestment, alongside other investors and partners to enable as many children and young people as possible to access cultural strengthening and mentoring support.
Unlocking Community: Community-led Initiatives to Reduce Indigenous Over-Imprisonment
12 October 2015
In 2014, the Foundation’s Advisory Board Member Ben Schokman was awarded a nine-month Myer Innovation Fellowship to research and design new and innovative approaches to address the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. The fellowship involved examining ‘justice reinvestment’ initiatives operating overseas and considering their potential application in the Australian context. This page summarises the findings and insights identified during the fellowship. The findings are based on successful initiatives that targeted the health and well-being outcomes that contribute to the causes of crime and, as a consequence, reduced crime and imprisonment rates.
While there is no one ‘model’ for successfully reducing crime and imprisonment rates and improving health and well-being outcomes, there were a number of core elements and key themes that emerged that are identified below.
- Community initiated and community led
The strongest element of success was that approaches designed to tackle the factors that contribute to crime were initiated and led by affected communities themselves. The people who are most affected are likely to have the best ideas of what issues exist, why they exist, and what change is needed.
Community-led initiatives can take many forms, ranging from communities undertaking their own consultation and participation processes through to large-scale social movements.
Community empowerment and agency is the key to developing long term, effective solutions. Genuine ownership by community members ensures that skills, resources and energy will be invested in a way that it is sustainable, resilient and more effective.
- Holistic, integrated approaches
When affected communities are directly involved the design and implementation of measures to prevent crime, it is much more likely that such initiatives will be more tailored to the specific needs and aspirations of that particular community. Many services provided to communities fail to deal adequately with the ‘intersectionality’ of issues faced by people who have multiple and complex needs – largely due to the siloed and fragmented nature of service delivery that is provided by government agencies. Approaches identified by directly affected communities themselves result in ‘bottom up’ approaches that are more holistic and integrated in their nature, rather than ‘top down’ approaches that fail to meet the specific needs of the community.
- Economic sustainability
The final successful element was that communities that were able to diversify their funding base beyond a reliance on government funding were much more likely to be successful. Funding was often the last question considered by communities after they had identified local priorities and developed ideas about how these priorities should be addressed. Government funding often means that people not from the community and not familiar with the issues in the community are making decisions about what funding is provided for what services.
Expanding on these three core elements, there were 10 key themes that were common to stories of success.
- A burning imperative: There was often some sort of crisis or emergency that created the imperative for the community to come together to determine collectively that things need to change in their community.
- Place-based and small scale: Localised, smaller-scale projects were far more likely to be successful than larger scale national, state or regional programs. Often, initiatives involved specific groups within a broader community rather than ‘whole of community’ approaches.
- Led by directly affected people: Processes and solutions must be driven by directly affected people. Those who have first-hand lived experience of the issues are most likely to have the best ideas about what the possible solutions are.
- Create hope and aspiration: As a result of creating an imperative for change, communities were able to develop a strong sense of hope and aspiration about the future and a deep desire to bring about change.
- Independence from government: There were strong correlations between success in achieving outcomes and independence from government involvement or interference. This was particularly the case given that many communities found themselves in positions of disadvantage and marginalisation as a consequence of government approaches and neglect.
- Diversification of resources: Communities that were able to diversify their funding base were much more likely to be successful. This also led to more sustainable and longer term funding, which is essential to overcoming the short-term nature of expectations of results that comes with short-term funding.
- Community building: Successful initiatives focused on a strengths-based approach that recognised community assets, and not on what the problems with a community were. Many initiatives incorporated a strong focus on ‘building’ and ‘learning, and not necessarily on providing formal ‘education. This involves building the capacity of people within the community and the development of ‘intrapreneurs’ who stay connected with their community rather than leaving to seek opportunities elsewhere.
- Culture and narrative: Incorporating an understanding of historical context and the dominant narrative was essential to addressing existing power imbalances. In many cases, communities were able to incorporate a “truth and reconciliation” component and restorative practices into their approaches, especially through community centres or cultural or healing centres.
- Integrating external expertise: One significant common factor was that communities were able to draw on external expertise and insights to inform their own processes and approaches. Informal cross-community exchanges and sharing of information, as well as communities on their own terms engaging external experts as enablers and facilitators, was part of this approach.
- Time: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, making inroads into deep seated and often complex disadvantage requires long term change and can’t be achieved in a holistic way through short term interventions.
Blueprint for Change
Further evidence supporting Wayapa directions can be found in the Blueprint for Change Report 2015, prepared by the Change the Record Coalition.
“The year 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the tabling of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report in Federal Parliament. In this context we should reflect on what has been done to change the landscape of our justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The short answer is – not enough. Today, our nation faces an even deeper crisis than that interrogated by the commission in 1991. In the past 10 years we have seen an 88% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.[i]
At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – especially women and children – are increasingly experiencing violence with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence. As a signatory to international human rights conventions, all levels of government have a responsibility to act to address this appalling situation. This is a national crisis requiring a national response …To change the record, all levels of government need to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and representative bodies to design and invest in holistic early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter, evidence-based and more cost-effective solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women and children, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger communities.
The Change the Record Coalition’s Blueprint for Change (Blueprint) outlines the leadership role to be played by the Federal Government through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process, as well as the policy principles and solutions that should be adopted by all levels of government to support the Blueprint. In developing the Blueprint the Change the Record (CTR) Coalition emphasises that all strategies must be grounded in a firm understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture and identity, and recognition of the history of dispossession and trauma experienced by many communities.
Further still, in the Healing Foundation’s review of 21 funded healing programs across Australia – ‘Our Healing Our Solutions’ 2013, 10 emerging evidence themes were identified. 82% of the programs reviewed and themes that emerged were also consistent with international evidence about quality healing programs. These themes capture many of the approaches and underpinning value system of Wayapa Healing and Mentoring including:
- Identifying with our cultural lineage makes us strong
- Preserving and sharing cultural heritage gives us a sense of the future
- Connecting with land, country and our history makes us strong
- Following our cultural ways makes us feel good and builds our spirits
- Strengthening our community gives us belonging and protection
- Acknowledging leadership allows us to mentor our future leaders
- Respecting self and others is an important a cultural value that guides us
- Using our cultural skills in our work makes us feel valuable and rewards us
- Grieving space and healing time lets us take care of hurt
- Reconnecting with our spiritual selves is powerful and makes us feel whole
Wayapa Foundation is committed to continuing to build the evidence base, and to monitor and evaluate our programs to ensure that we reflect what we and others know about what works, and can contribute to further understanding and improved approaches to working with children, young people and families.