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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)
They support the concept of a Koori mental
health service within the community and feel it will have significant
impacts on the health outcomes for the entire community. .
The elders business group of Wathaurong have specific issues and needs of
their own. Advancing physical illness, isolation and loneliness, poverty and
depression challenges the elders. There are Koori elders developing dementia
and the elders acknowledge some difficulties with alcohol. It is important
to stress that the cultural and spiritual needs of the elders are privileged
and secret business and it is not appropriate to be discussed here.
These people feel the loss of the land, culture and way of life more keenly
than most. They are the generation that have experienced the traditional
lifestyle of Koori people and have seen that way of life progressively
destroyed. The elders have had to survive radical and universal changes to
their lives. They have seen and experienced the destruction of their
culture, the loss of their traditional lands, and the end of their
traditional way of life.
Koori elders may not be old as is often assumed by non-indigenous people.
The average life expectancy of a Koori person is up to 20 years less than
for other Australians. The grief and loss experienced by this group of
people is difficult to comprehend and yet their first concern is for the
social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of their community.
The elders are considered to be the grandfathers and grandmothers of their
community and their Social, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being issues are at
the core of the community. When the elders speak about services for their
community, they acknowledge that they would definitely benefit from having
Koori mental health workers. But, more important to the elders is how the
community will benefit.
The elders group gives support to the proposal to develop a community based
Koori mental health team and to create a Koori place of cultural and
spiritual healing. The elders believe that this is the most appropriate and
effective manner to address the Social, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being
needs of their community.
The youth of Wathaurong are confronted by many of the same issues faced by
the adults and similarly, these issues are linked. Drug and alcohol abuse,
suicide, violence and poor anger management, relationship issues with family
and partners, parenting issues, legal/justice issues, financial difficulties
and cultural issues all challenge the youth of Wathaurong. There is a clear
link between the drug and alcohol issues and suicide, violence,
inter-relationship conflict and legal problems.
The group spoken to, believe the best service for drug and alcohol issues
would be an isolated property run by Koori people. It was also suggested
this property should incorporate a work program that was designed to provide
detoxification and recovery opportunities. They explained it would need to
be isolated to discourage the young people from "slipping in to town for a
This service could also function as a safe place for children/youths having
conflict with family/partners (preferable alternative to the street), a bail
address for youths with legal issues, and a place for the young people to
re-discover and integrate their cultural heritage. There is more detail of
this proposed service in the Appendix of the report. (Appendix 11.)