Camping on Country for mental health
Fishing, campfires and yarning circles are all part of a new approach to health education for men in West Australia’s Kimberley.
The Broome Local Drug Action Group (LDAG) is using camps to bring together Indigenous men of all ages to discuss what health and wellbeing issues they face in their community.
Mathew Taylor, a Health Promotion Coordinator on the LDAG, says the camps in remote on-country settings provide a culturally safe environment for men to learn more about how alcohol and other drugs, smoking, diet and exercise are linked to mental wellness and disease.
“The camps are ‘safe’ places for Indigenous men to have real talk and conversations. Many don’t feel comfortable going into local clinics, which are often female dominated spaces, especially if they are dealing with a mental health or sexual health issue.
“We use the camps as a way to educate men about our services. Passing on the information face to face is the best possible means of communication to improve health outcomes for themselves and their people.”
A chance to connect
Mathew said that everything from alcohol use and marijuana use to healthy eating and the negative impacts of social media and video games has been discussed.
The camps are structured around both formal and informal activities. They involve hunting, cooking, yarning circles, cultural activities, talks by health service providers, counselling and walks to connect men with their country and each other.
“Connecting to culture and country are central to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people and even more important for those who may have poor mental health.
“The camps build relationships and connections which lead to stronger and more resilient communities.
“One of the Ardyaloon Elders came and said we should do the camps more often like his ancestors did centuries ago.”
(Illustration by artist Brenton Mckenna - Graphic Novelist / Designer for the Men’s Camp)
Next up: expanding the program
The camps’ activities have been brought to life by artist, Brenton Mckenna, who visually illustrated the camp journey, capturing connections between culture, sense of place and wellbeing, and the importance of supporting Aboriginal men to become role models within their communities.
To date, the camps have been held in Geegully creek and Pender Bay. Mathew’s next focus is bringing the health camps to more remote communities that have a need for and interest in the concept.
The initiative has been organised by the Broome LDAG, working with Kimberly Mental Health Drug Services and Kimberley Population Health Unit. The Broome LDAG thanks Looma Aboriginal Community and Ardyaloon community – One Arm Point for their involvement.
This LDAG uses the Strong and Connected Communities Toolkit to deliver their activity. It outlines evidence-informed approaches to building resilient and connected communities to help prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms.
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