06.11.2019 13:30 Age: 84 days

Back to Country a frontrunner for health awards

Aboriginal Mental Health Staff from left to right: Joe Bin Sali, Glen Dixon, Helen Clements, Robert Wilson, Harold Wilson and Denise Cox.

A unique mental health program that connects Aboriginal men and women back to their land is in the running for a major health award.

The Back to Country program is a finalist in the WA Health Excellence Awards category three – Achieving better health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Back to Country is led by the WA Country Health Service’s Kimberley Mental Health and Drug Service at the Mabu Liyan mental health unit in Broome.

Reflecting the Yawuru meaning of Mabu Liyan, which is ‘healing spirit’, each week the team facilitates activities out on country for Aboriginal consumers who are currently inpatients. Non-Aboriginal consumers are also invited to participate.

The activities incorporate experiences that are personal and provide meaningful connection to the individual’s own country and cultural practice, such as goanna hunting, fishing, bush walking, gathering traditional foods and storytelling to enhance spiritual and cultural healing.

Outings to places of significance in the history of local Aboriginal people have also been an important part of the initiative.

The Mabu Liyan team said that hospital could be a foreign environment for many Aboriginal people.

“Connecting to culture and country are central to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people and even more important for those who may be experiencing poor mental health,” the team said.

“The ‘Back to Country’ program helps with spiritual and cultural healing. It also helps our non-Aboriginal staff improve their knowledge and appreciation of non-Aboriginal culture.

“Back to Country has helped a lot of local men and women get well again by reconnecting with spirit, culture and land.”

Mabu Liyan mental health unit is part of the Broome Hospital and has been open since 2012. It aims to provide evidence-based programs and treatment that is culturally secure and safe.

The WA Health Excellence Awards was in Perth on 7 November.

WA Country Health Service had nine finalists across eight project categories.

You can view the complete list of finalists here.