Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people still face unequal health outcomes. On average, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people die more than 10 years younger than other Australians.
National Close the Gap Day, on 21 March, highlights this issue and provides Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians the opportunity to come together to share information and to support the work that aims to achieve Indigenous health equality.
We have a strong history of collaborating with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities in the region to identify gaps in services relating to health and taking action to close those gaps.
One of our commissioned services helping to bridge the gap is the Young, Strong & Deadly program, delivered by the Blue Mountains Aboriginal and Culture Resource Centre (ACRC).
Young, Strong & Deadly is an early intervention mental health and addiction prevention program for young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people between 13-28 years of age. Delivered primarily through schools, the program is designed to strengthen young people’s connection to country and cultural identity, creating a positive sense-of-self and community. This creates a sense of belonging that increases their personal resilience and decreases their risks of mental illness and addiction.
There is a strong link between the connection to culture and a positive sense of identity. Being in touch with culture can have a protective factor that helps to decrease the impact of stressful life events and experiences.
In this program, learning from Elders allows these young people to draw on long-held wisdom and to reconnect to the strengths of cultural knowledge. The cultural base of this program not only makes a difference to the young people involved, but has positive effects for the broader community through these young people.
Wayne Cornish, Manager of ACRC has told us that he believes connecting to country and culture is strong place for young people to centre themselves and to nurture well-being.
“In the program we talk about connecting to culture and their own self-worth. We teach traditional stories, go through morals like looking after land and looking after each other. This cultural foundation creates a safe space for us to talk about issues like anxiety, depression, suicide prevention and addiction,” he says.
Together with ACRC we have developed a video highlighting the fantastic work of this program. This upcoming Close the Gap Day, let’s continue advocate for more services like this.
Blue Mountains Aboriginal and Culture Resource Centre welcomes referrals and inquiries on 4782 6569 or via their website www.acrc.org.au