Purro Birik - 4

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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)



3. Project Description


3.1 Project Establishment


The 'Purro Birik' Koori Mental Health Policy Project commenced in October 1997. The establishment of the project followed consultation between the Victorian Department of Human Services Mental Health Branch and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) on the Mental Health needs of Aboriginal people in Victoria.


The project, which was funded by the Department of Human Services Mental Health Branch, was initially proposed to take place over a 12 month period. In September 1998 the Mental Health Branch made available further funding to extend the project by five months.


The project set out to facilitate discussion between public mental health services and Aboriginal communities on local mental health issues, particularly in relation to developing ideas on best practice. A major emphasis of the project is to provide opportunities for Aboriginal communities to discuss mental health and related issues, to promote discussion between Communities, and to further develop community analysis and recommendations for the improvement of services.


The project was undertaken as a partnership between VACCHO and the Victorian Mental Health Branch. It has been managed by VACCHO, which employed a project worker, and supported by the Victorian Mental Health Branch which committed a project officer to support the consultation process and the development of a discussion paper.


3.2 Project Aim


The primary aim of the Purro Birik project is to consult with Aboriginal communities and public mental health services, and propose strategies to improve mental health services to Aboriginal people in Victoria.


3.3 Consultation Process


Shaun Coade, the Project Worker employed by VACCHO organised and facilitated the consultation process. Dot Campbell (October 1997 to September 1998), then Pat O'Leary (October 1998 to June 1999) both from the Victorian Mental Health Branch supported Shaun Coade in this process.


The structure of the consultation process was consistent with the aims of the project brief, which called for the project to:


• organise, support and document discussion on mental health issues within Aboriginal communities across Victoria;

• consult with public mental health services to determine the range of services provided to Aboriginal people, including ideas for service innovation and improvement;


• develop and resource regional forums of key Aboriginal community members and seek their views on mental health issues;

• compile and document best practice models of mental health service delivery to Aboriginal people through both consultation and literature searches.


The consultation process occurred over two rounds. The first round (between January 1998 and June 1998) individually targeted public mental health services and Aboriginal communities through community controlled health services. Twenty Aboriginal community controlled health services and seventeen public mental health services were consulted in the first round. (see appendix A). A progress report on the outcome of the first round of consultation was provided by VACCHO in July 1998.


The Executive Officer of VACCHO requested in May 1998 to extend the project from 12 months to 17 months. This request was in response to a high level of interest in the project expressed by Aboriginal communities and public mental health services which resulted in additional consultations. The Mental Health Branch approved the request and additional funding was provided.


The second round of consultation (between December 1998 and May 1999) occurred on a regional level with each consultation taking place over two days. The first day on each occassion was for Aboriginal communities only, and the second day was designed to bring together Aboriginal health workers and community members with local mental health services (see Appendix B).


One outcome of bringing together Aboriginal health services and public mental health services was recognition of the level of commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of mental health services for Aboriginal people in Victoria. However, despite some good examples of best practice already occurring, there is a lot of work still to be done to ensure the mental health needs of Aboriginal communities across Victoria are being effectively met.


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