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People empowered to make positive changes for their future

23 Jun 2014


A self-help, empowerment programme has begun in Cherbourg to strengthen people, families and the community.

Once people are functioning at full tilt it’s hoped school attendance will increase, life outcomes will improve and everybody will have a better future.

Sounds fanciful?

Well it’s not.

It’s worked well in the Kimberley and the Cultural, Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program is now being rolled out to eight communities across Australia.

It was designed within a National Empowerment Team led by Bardi woman and psychologist, professor Pat Dudgeon.

Her people are from an area in the Kimberley, Western Australia, which was being devastated by social issues.

Rather than think up solutions within their own group, the National Empowerment Team worked with differing communities to identify the causes and suggest actions.

Consultants within eight towns were trained to do research and ask people what challenges they faced and how they could be overcome.

They identified issues involving youth, family life, personal relationships, substance abuse, community future, unemployment, health and mental health.

These were said to be caused by family deaths, serious illness, unemployment, mental illness and alcohol abuse.

Giving people power

The empowerment programme has now been developed so individuals can tackle these problems.

More than 20 Cherbourg people enrolled on June 2 into a series of two-day workshops to be held on a weekly basis, for six weeks, at the old Emu Farm.

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, arrived the following day (Mabo Day) to formally launch it.

Cherbourg workshop facilitators Bronwyn Murray and James Stanley said the aim was to give people the skills to improve their lives.

“We get them to think about what social, emotional and cultural wellbeing means,” Bronwyn said.

“We then come back to the wellbeing of the individual, get people to think about where they sit within a family, what role they play and what role others play in their relationships, what’s their wellbeing within that, is there stability, or do they need to change things to function as a family?

“From there it’s about people within their community and what role they play within it or would they like to play a greater part.”

Helping people to help others

The aim is to get people to think about how they can contribute to bettering their own lives and those of others.

They may wish to become a volunteer coach or a shire councillor, start a business or just find work.

“We get them to set goals and then refer them to agencies or people who can help them,” Bronwyn said.

The follow up work will last over a 12-month period.

It’s a big job for Bronwyn and James but it’s hoped Cultural, Social and Emotional Wellbeing workshop graduates, or Cherbourg community people, will take on leadership roles to help.

The end result will be will be stronger people, strong families.

“With that stability everything else will follow,” Bronwyn said.

“If a family becomes functional with structure and has motivated people with high self-esteem, everything becomes better.”

With that structure and motivation more children will go to school every day on time, become better educated and have a good future.

Everybody wins.

The program is also being implemented in Kuranda, Far North Queensland.