Dr Mary Whiteside, Dr Sarah MacLean and Kathleen Maltzahn from Social Work and Social Policy are working with Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) to embed the Family Wellbeing Program into staff training and client services. The Lowitja Institute has provided research support.
“Family Wellbeing was developed by the Aboriginal Education branch of TAFE SA in the 1990s and highlights the role of empowerment in health and wellbeing,” explains Whiteside. “Participants work on a range of topics including human qualities, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs, and come together to work on community problems.” The program has been adopted by a range of health, education and community providers, involving more than 40 organisations and 4000 participants.
In 2016, at the request of MDAS, Whiteside, MacLean and Maltzahn piloted a version of Family Wellbeing with 18 staff members. They found that participation in the program improved their psychosocial empowerment and that Family Wellbeing was culturally relevant to their clients.
“MDAS then adopted Family Wellbeing as a whole-of-service model,” says MacLean. “Three senior workers undertook accredited facilitator training and upskilled other MDAS staff in their gambling prevention, justice diversion, family support and youth mental health services. We have been actively involved as program evaluators with funding from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.”
“Family Wellbeing has given MDAS workers the confidence and capacity to deliver more holistic services, and become community teachers and researchers,” she adds. “Clients have reported a range of benefits including improved mental health, improved school attendance, and reduced drug and alcohol use. It really transforms health and wellbeing.”