Purro Birik - 33

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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)



Marital relationships are reported as being the most influential and most confidential. The breakdown of this most crucial relationship has extensive impact on the entire family and wider community. The men generally leaving the home and having no alternative accommodation. These circumstances often lead to social problems and contact with the legal system.

The men have wide-ranging legal issues and report that the contact with the legal/justice system is almost universal across their community. The difficulties experienced by the men in interacting with the police; through to the effect of custodial sentences, all have a serious impact on the Social, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being of the men.

On review, it appears that the "social, emotional and spiritual well-being" issues being faced by the men of Wathaurong are connected in a complex manner. The underlying theme is one of unresolved grief, loss and anger amidst the men of the Wathaurong community. Grief and anger at the loss of the land, their culture, their role in their own community and the wider society and most significantly, their individual and collective sovereignty. To their credit, the men, as a group, have recognised this. They have taken responsibility for their own process and are taking steps to work towards solutions. They have formed a "Men's Business" group and are developing strategies to help each other resolve and defeat the challenges that confront them.

When asked what services or structures would be helpful in this process, the men are clear about requiring a male or several male Koori mental health workers, who are trained or receiving training in working with the above issues in a culturally sensitive manner. The men also feel that it is vital that they have a place to recover and heal themselves. They describe a "Men's Business Place". This is a place for alcohol and drug recovery, refuge from relationship disputes, a place where the men of the community can meet, work together and resolve their own issues in a cultural and spiritual way. (See Appendix 12 for more details).

Women's Business

As the Moroponuk project officer is male there are limits as to what access or information can be provided about the Women of Wathaurong and their business. Nevertheless, the women have identified several issues.

The young mothers at the Koori playgroup described what they perceived as widespread depression. Each woman identified two or more of their female Koori friends as being depressed. Of the fifteen women present, all could describe periods of depression and 50% described clinical signs of depression at that time. None of the women reported having received treatment for depression at any stage. All were adamant they would not speak to a white General Practitioner (G.P.) about depression because they felt they would be reported by the GP to the Child Protection Agency (C.P.A.) as unfit mothers and have their children removed. All fifteen women present supported this belief.

The women also spoke about domestic violence and abuse of women and children in the home. This is an extremely sensitive issue and it would be inappropriate to provide detail at this time. However, the women describe the abuse as serious, and report it is wide spread, with devastating effects on the women and children of Wathaurong and the wider community. The women also describe drug and alcohol issues, and like their men, recognise that the drug and alcohol issues are entwined with all social emotional and spiritual well-being issues they confront.

The young women in particular (and supported by older women across the community), agree that if there were female Koori mental health workers, working within their community, they would access the service. They would actively seek treatment for emotional disorders and they would trust this service to support them in their roles as mothers. The women believe that it is vital this service is established within their community.


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