In 2014, and in partnership with Chevron Australia, Mentally Healthy WA began a pilot program in the Pilbara town of Roebourne, the traditional country of the Ngarluma People.
The program involved the development of a culturally appropriate Act-Belong-Commit framework aimed at building social and emotional well-being in Aboriginal communities, with the longer-term aims to:
- Strengthen resilience at both individual and community levels,
- Increase well-being, and
- Lessen the prevalence and impact of mental health problems in Indigenous communities, including contributing to suicide prevention.
Extensive consultation with Elders, community organisations and members of the local community informed the development of the program, including key-messaging and activities.
As a result, the overall messaging of the Act-Belong-Commit campaign was accepted by the community as being relevant to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people in Roebourne, with its emphasis on the dependency of good social and emotional wellbeing on interactions with family, involvement in community activities, and connecting to country and culture.
One of the highlights from the program was the competition to design an adaptation of the Act-Belong-Commit campaign logo. Eleven-year-old Jasminda Stevens of Roebourne created the official design, which depicted Roebourne communities standing together proud and strong. This reflected the underlying strengths and capacities of Aboriginal communities in Roebourne the program aims to harness and strengthen.
"Act-Belong-Commit in Roebourne means ways you can become strong in body, mind and spirit."
- Key stakeholder interviewee, Roebourne 2017
The Standing Strong Together Model
The ‘Standing Strong Together’ model emphasises the dependency of Social and Emotional Wellbeing on interactions with family, involvement in community activities and connection to Country and culture:
Keep mentally, socially, spiritually, physically and culturally active;
Build and maintain a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity by keeping connected to family and language groups, and by getting together with others at cultural events and visits to Country;
Commit to caring for Country, to teaching the young ones about culture and language or re-learning culture and language yourself, keep up obligations to family and community, take part in cultural ceremonies and express culture in art, music, dance or stories.
The Healing Out on Country Project
The Healing Out on Country Project was developed following local consultation identifying the need for a culturally sensitive and collaborative project aimed at building social and emotional wellbeing for families effected by suicide and tragic loss in the town of Roebourne.
With such a high rate of suicide for a small community, the project provided families with the opportunity to go on Country, an opportunity they may not have otherwise receive.
These family trips enabled parents and carers time away as a family unit, as well as the chance to once again see their children happy. They also provided agencies with opportunities to build relationships with families who would not normally access their services and programs.
You can learn more about the Healing Out on Country Project in The West Australian Indigenous Storybook: The Pilbara Edition.
“I have seen many people engage with the Act-Belong-Commit Standing Strong Together campaign that would otherwise not engage in community programs. This is a credit to Lesley and her ability to make community feel a sense of belonging and ownership over the program.”
- Key stakeholder interviewee, Roebourne 2017
Overall feedback from stakeholders has been positive.
Feedback from families has indicated that the Healing Out on Country Project has helped to:
- Free their minds from the stresses of a small town,
- Accept that their loved one wasn’t coming home,
- Come together to laugh and cherish the good times, and
- Increase school attendance.
A formal evaluation of the program was conducted in 2017, with results indicating that our initial goals for the program were achieved, with:
- Widespread acceptance of both the Act-Belong-Commit Aboriginal Project Manager and campaign messaging,
- A comprehensive understanding of the campaign goals, and
- A willingness of agencies to cooperate in collaboration with other organisations with similar and/or complementary goals.
Learnings from this pilot are now being considered by other communities throughout WA.
The program has been recognised as a finalist in the Community Service Excellence Awards 2018 for outstanding commitment to collaborative place-based services or solutions for the Standing Strong Together Project.
We acknowledge the support of the Elders, community and agencies for taking the journey with Us to develop this program.
To find out more about the Act-Belong-Commit Standing Strong Together Program, contact Mentally Healthy WA.