Alfred Smallwood, chairman and coordinator of Uncle Alfred Men’s Group Local Drug Action Team, has received the Townsville Senior of the Year Award in honour of his work in supporting local Indigenous men.
Held annually in August, during Queensland Seniors Week, the awards recognise one man and one woman for their outstanding contributions to the Townsville community. This year, the awards were presented by Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 1000 people
The Uncle Alfred Men’s Group (UAMG) LDAT supports men who have recently been released from the corrections system to actively engage in the community.
Rachel Acton, Senior Community Development Officer at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation and the relationship manager for the LDAT, congratulated Uncle Alfred, saying that the group has been a pleasure to support.
“Before joining the LDAT program, UAMG was widely known and respected within the Townsville community,” Rachel said.
“The LDAT program has supported the group to increase their reach in the community, in a culturally appropriate manner. Their focus has been on increasing family connection through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions.”
Uncle Alfred was appreciative of the award and surprised at receiving it, saying: “I’m just blown away, I did not expect this at all.”
Uncle Alfred says he has a 98% success rate with the men who attend his weekly support groups; a result he put down to its authentic delivery.
“One of the first things we teach in the group is one big word, and that’s respect. It’s all about honesty, trust and truth. All we want to do is help the young people of tomorrow. We need to teach these young men to take back their lives.”
“I have the partners come up to me and say, ‘what did you do, he’s a different man and my children have their father back’,” said Uncle Alfred.
Uncle Alfred and Aunty Gail are the two highly experienced and fully-qualified mentors running the program. Pastor Uncle Brad, from Church of Christ Care where the group meetings are held, occasionally attends to provide further support for the men’s group. Janet Driver coordinates administration for the LDAT, focussing on applying for further grant funding and capturing data to help with evaluating activities. Through Uncle Alfred Men’s Group, multiple preventative activities have already been delivered to the wider Townsville community.
“Uncle Alfred, Aunty Gail and Janet are extraordinary individuals who drive the work of UAMG. Their compassion and commitment to the community is evident through the sheer number of volunteered hours and dedication in the activities they deliver.”
“I have enjoyed on a personal level getting to know Uncle Alfred and the amazing work he does in the community,” said Rachel.
The LDAT’s current Community Action Plan (CAP) builds on the success that Uncle Alfred has already achieved within the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
It is supporting families to build strong inter-family relationships, focussing on connections between parents and children, while also connecting with their culture through two mentoring programs - one for young people (with Auntie Gail) and one aimed at adults (with Uncle Alfred and Uncle Brad).
Both programs include alcohol and other drug education, cultural connections, family connections, arts and crafts, fishing skills and - for the adults - a bi-annual turtle tagging event.
Turtle tagging activities have previously been a successful way to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to connect with culture. The tagging, led by Gudjuda rangers, helps scientists to collect information on the spread of viruses in green sea marine turtles.
Uncle Alfred is passionate about the group’s cultural approach and is hopeful that the award will gain some attention and support for it.
“I hope this award shows the value of the work we do, and I can get some more help funding it.”
Rachel is hopeful for the same and excited about the future of this outstanding LDAT.
“I look forward to continue supporting the amazing work of UAMG,” she added.