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
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
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
• 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.