Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Singing ceremony song again: Our men our healing and the importance of co-design (#75)

Steven Torres Carne 1 , John Prince 2
  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, Kingston, ACT, Australia
  2. Social Compass, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

In remote areas, trauma and intergenerational suffering, geographical isolation and inconsistent delivery of support services have led to damaging outcomes for communities. The men in these communities often acknowledge their uncertainty about their traditional role and disengagement from culture and identity. The result has been devastating for men, their families and their communities. The negative outcomes include disempowerment and low self-esteem, alcohol and other drug use, family and domestic violence, unemployment and economic disadvantage, incarceration and recidivism and self-harm and suicide.

Our Men Our Healing was a program that piloted men’s healing projects in the remote Northern Territory communities of Maningrida, Ngukurr and Wurrumiyanga from 2013.

  1. The aim was to strengthen, support and empower Aboriginal men through cultural, education and therapeutic healing activities. By putting into practice culturally sound methodologies and approaches Our Men Our Healing re-established holistic wellbeing allowing men to see themselves as:

Nurturers who are nurturing and growing their children strong and healthy.

  1. Teachers who are teaching and taking care of cultural knowledge
  2. Protectors who are protecting and caring for their families and keeping their communities safe.

 This presentation outlines the achievements of the Our Men Our Healing program and the critical factors in the success of the program–as reported in the independent evaluation commissioned by the Healing Foundation. Of the success factors identified, co-design was deemed to be the most significant. Co-design allowed for: ownership and agency within the solutions and design of each of the programs including the development of program logics; continued commitment to the needs, solutions and activities being developed by the men for the men; men addressing how they view themselves as a key driver for change and in the process becoming agents of change; men being given tools and resources to support the program while at the same time having their culture and knowledge systems acknowledged, valued, respected and incorporated.

The changes described in this presentation are acknowledged by both the men and the women in each community. They are leading to sustained change as men, their families and communities grow stronger.