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Fond farewell for Strong Family Strong Culture

After ten years supporting Aboriginal maternal and child health in Western Australia, there will be a fond farewell for Strong Family, Strong Culture (SFSC) caregivers at the end of June, when the program transfers its remaining clients to other service providers.Strong Family Strong Culture caregivers

Since 2008 there has been a significant increase in funding to Aboriginal and maternal and child health from national and state governments, meaning that other agencies are now delivering many of the services provided by SFSC.

This has enabled a change of focus for Aboriginal health services provided by St John of God Social Outreach and Advocacy, specifically a greater commitment to the perinatal and infant mental health of Aboriginal people.

“When SFSC was started in 2003, there was a lack of funding in this area so there was a significant need for the program,” said Anne Russell-Brown, Group Director of Social Outreach and Advocacy. “However, since 2008, through the COAG Closing the Gap agreement there has been significant growth in similar services in the regions where SFSC has been operating.

“This is a very welcome and much needed investment from government but our Social Outreach and Advocacy services have a core principle that we should address areas of unmet need in the community. With regard to Aboriginal maternal and child health, that gap in service provision has been closing and therefore we feel that we should re-focus our resources in areas where our expertise can continue to make a positive impact.”

“Withdrawing from SFSC is not something we have taken lightly and we have certainly made the decision with a heavy heart,” Ms Russell-Brown stressed. “We’ve worked closely with the valued caregivers who will be leaving us to make sure they are well equipped to secure meaningful future employment. These women have made an outstanding contribution to their local communities and the health of Aboriginal families in regional WA and we are very grateful for their dedicated service.”

Strong Family Strong Culture caregivers were farewelled by the Social Outreach and Advocacy team in Perth recently and were joined by two men instrumental in establishing the service. Kevin Cox, former St John of God Health Care Aboriginal Health Manager and Kim Snowball, formerly Group Director for Social Outreach and Advocacy and more recently WA Director General of Health. Both paid tribute to the departing caregivers.

“At the time when we started Strong Family, Strong Culture there were very few programs that focused on maternal health and the birth weights of babies in Aboriginal communities,” Mr Snowball said. “Strong Family Strong Culture was different in that it recognised the cultural and community aspects of Aboriginal people and targeted factors like nutrition and smoking cessation, building on a model established in the Northern Territory.

“The women who have worked in Strong Family, Strong Culture since it started should be very proud of what they have achieved because they’ve made a real difference in Aboriginal maternal and child health in WA.”

Social Outreach and Advocacy Services has identified the perinatal and infant mental health of Aboriginal families as an area of significant unmet need, and is providing free training workshops for health professionals to address this need - find out more.

New directions in Aboriginal health

St John of God Social Outreach and Advocacy Services has developed new support for health professionals to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people during the perinatal period.

Following six successful training workshops for health professionals across regional WA, Victoria and NSW, additional funding has been secured from the WA Mental Health Commission and the Australian Research Council to provide training in five locations across the south of WA.

St John of God Health Care will fund an additional training workshop in Broome as part of an ongoing commitment to Aboriginal health in the Kimberley.

Feedback from the initial workshops, which trained 113 health professionals from 69 separate organisations, was very positive leading to interest from nearly every state in Australia.

The development of this innovative training has a clear capacity building focus, empowering health professionals working in many communities to better support the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal families.

More information.