An Australia-wide program is tackling the extraordinarily high rates of suicide and other social and emotional wellbeing problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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The National Empowerment Project (NEP) is led by the School of Indigenous Studies at The University of Western Australia.  Organisers have recruited local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at eight sites around Australia to help lead their local communities towards empowerment and the promotion of cultural, social and emotional wellbeing.

NEP aims to restore the wellbeing of communities and to prevent further traumatic events occurring as a result of community distress and suicide.

The Project is unusual and innovative in that it combines traditional western approaches with culturally appropriate and locally responsive empowerment, healing and leadership strategies devised in each community. 

The University of Western Australian's Professor Pat Dudgeon, a Research Fellow in UWA's School of Indigenous Studies, is NEP's Project Director.  From the Bardi and Gija people of the Kimberley, Professor Dudgeon was the first Aboriginal psychologist to graduate in Australia.  She said issues such as colonisation, poverty, unemployment, isolation, discrimination, Stolen Generation repercussions and disempowerment contributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at risk.  NEP has recruited local Aboriginal people as a way of building local community capacity.  They will meet with their communities and devise ways to regain wellbeing. 

Professor Dudgeon and other members of the NEP Team will be at a Training Development Workshop at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle from 4-6 March.  The workshop has been organised to finalise the development of the Empowerment Program, which will be delivered in each of the sites, pending ongoing funding and support.  The Program at this stage will run for six weeks at each site for local community members and cover topics and activities that promote cultural, social and emotional wellbeing.

Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Project builds on an Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery Grant, Cultural Continuity and Change: Indigenous Solutions to Mental Health Issues and the Kimberley Empowerment Project, which was a response to a rise in the suicide rate within that region.

Media are welcome to attend the workshop at The Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle, on Wednesday 5 March where they can speak to Professor Dudgeon, Adele Cox and community consultants from around Australia.

News Source : An Australia-wide program is tackling the extraordinarily high rates of suicide and other social and emotional wellbeing problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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