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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)
It is crucial that Barwon Health continue to provide services with the
understanding that the Wathaurong Koori community require and expect
considerable development in the delivery of culturally appropriate services
specifically for the Koori community. This development will require of
appropriate policies and procedures being designed to guide and direct
clinical staff. The creation of a Koori advocate program, Barwon Health
Mental Health Services' undertaking to provide cross cultural training for
all clinical and non-clinical staff and the Wathaurong Aboriginal
co-operative being the sole provider of the cross cultural program, on an
ongoing, long-term basis.
There are draft examples of a Koori advocate program, and a cross cultural
program included in the appendix section of this report. (Appendix 2 and 7)
Whilst Barwon Health's responsibilities clinically are now clearly defined,
there remain significant mental health issues for the Koori community, which
will not be met by these strategies and interventions. These issues are
broadly described as 'social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing' issues.
"Health does not just mean the physical well-being of an individual but
refers to the social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of the whole
community. This is a whole life view and includes the cyclical concept of
life-death-life. Health care services should strive to achieve the state
where every individual can achieve their full potential as human beings and
thus bring about the total well-being of their communities" (Swan. P and
Raphael. B, 1995)'
'Social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing' recognises the importance of a
Koori person's connection and view of themselves, their relationship with
their immediate and extended family, their community, their land and their
Due to the cultural and spiritual complexities of this concept it will be an
extremely challenging task to deliver an effective and culturally
appropriate service to meet the 'social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing'
needs of the Wathaurong Koori community.
Lack of exposure to this concept and lack of inservice or professional
development in this area, suggests that the staff of Barwon Health Mental
Health Services are not ideally placed, experienced or qualified to deliver
this service. It is more appropriate for the Wathaurong Aboriginal
Co-Operative to be adequately resourced to take on this responsibility.
There is a proposal for the development of a community based Koori "social,
emotional, and spiritual well-being" service included in the appendix
section of this report. (Appendix 6.)
"Traditional Aboriginal culture like many others does not conceive of
illness, mental or otherwise, as a distinct medical entity. Rather there is
a more holistic conception of life in which individual wellbeing is
intimately associated with collective wellbeing. It involves harmony in
social relationships and in the fundamental relationship with the land and
other aspects of the physical environment. In these terms diagnosis of an
individual illness is meaningless or even counterproductive if it isolates
the individual from these relationships."(taken from Bringing Them Home,
Commonwealth of Australia, 1997)'
The Koori community of Wathaurong defines the "social, emotional and
spiritual well-being" issues within their community by the specific group
affected by the issue.
Anger management, conflict resolution and violence is a serious issue for
the men of the Wathaurong community. The men identify and recognise the need
to resolve this.
The men describe serious drug and alcohol issues within their community.
They understand this is not just an issue of substance abuse and
intoxication, but that these issues create and compound many of the
challenges facing the men of Wathaurong. In fact, they recognise that
substance abuse is an expression or manifestation of deep underlying issues
within their community.
However, the men state categorically that abstinence would not resolve these
issues. This is much more complex than simple abuse issues. This is a
crucial issue for the men and it must be approached within the context of
the community, the society and the multitude of challenges facing the men.
Relationship issues are intrinsically linked to the substance abuse. Whether
the inter-personal relationship problems are created through substance
abuse, or whether the abuse is an expression of the relationship conflict is
irrelevant~ as both issues present challenges and on-going consequences to
the men and the community.