NORTHAM/TOODYAY CONSULTATIONS & RESEARCH FINDINGS
The consultations revealed a range of pressing concerns faced by individuals, families and the community as a whole.
High among these was a concern with the fighting between family groups and within the younger generations, and the impact this had on the community as a whole. Closely allied to this were concerns over the physical and mental health wellbeing of the community, with a suggestion that suicide was becoming an alternative way of dealing with the stigma of mental illness and the high stresses that are part of contemporary life.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see the affects of suicide in the Aboriginal community – it just doesn’t affect immediate families but the wider Aboriginal community too – its all becoming all too ‘NORMAL’ in the town and region, so there needs to be more funding made available to address this major issue...”
Also linked to family feuding and concerns with mental health was a concern with the general level of violence and abuse in the community. Substance abuse was closely linked to other issues raised by participants, and something that was seen to have its genesis in past history and the Stolen Generations.
Prejudice and discrimination against Aboriginal people has a long history and one often not understood by younger generations. For some there was hope that more engagement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Northam/Toodyay may have potential of breaking down the stereotypes.
“A lot of the issues involve family violence and family feuding. Most ofthe family members in the town are related which brings a lot of conflict, especially when alcohol is involved.”
In response to questions about strengthening individuals, family and the community, a focus on Aboriginal culture and identity emerged as the predominant theme. Key to this was addressing reclamation of Aboriginal culture and identity, along with the need for learning, especially about cultural heritage and traditional ways of healing.
Learning about culture and traditional ways could be through more formal transmission of cultural knowledge through Elders, but it could also be simply as people coming together to yarn and share.
This ‘coming together’ was linked nostalgically to what families did together in the old days; past years, however it was seen to also have its modern versions in the ‘family barbecue’, family outings, and ‘going bush’.
“Things can’t be like the olden days, but it can be something like the old days; the young fellas need it. It’s a bit like mixing old clay and new clay to model a bridge, so that there’s no longer pot holes in that bridge, so everyone can get from one side to the other, without there being a gap.”
Healing and empowerment were also key themes around strengthening the community. Healing of individuals was linked to, and paralleled by, the need for the community to heal. Individuals needed to undergo healing to strengthen and empower themselves, to enable them to have a future vision, purpose and to move forward. Similarly, the community needed to let go of the past through healing in order to embrace a positive future.