TOOMELAH CONSULTATIONS & RESEARCH FINDINGS
The consultations revealed a range of pressing concerns faced by individuals, families and the community as a whole. The most striking issue identified by Toomelah participants related to inadequate services, especially medical services.
These concerns were followed closely by concerns about substance abuse, especially by young people who lacked engaging activity. Substance abuse was seen as a ‘devastating’ community issue with many repercussions such as fighting, mental health issues, domestic violence, family breakdown and suicide. All of these concerns were also linked to general health and mental health issues.
Unemployment was also a community concern, linked by some to the demise of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP).
“Closure of the CDEP and essential services caused the community to go down, and that’s when the drugs and alcohol got bad.”
While Toomelah participants raised many concerns about issues that impacted on individuals, families and their community, they also had a clear sense of what could make individuals, families and the community stronger.
“They (services) don’t offer culturally appropriate and holistic approach. Culturally appropriate is just a word. They don’t live it or practice it.”
Foremost were suggestions focusing on culture, from the need to have a general appreciation and respect of traditional Aboriginal culture, to people needing to know who they were and their personal history. For many, building a stronger community involved people coming together and having pride in their community.
Education and knowledge were important to build stronger individuals and community, as was the need to stop the feuding and the rumours and gossip that often fuelled the feuding. Strong leadership and positive role models could also help make individuals, families and the community stronger.
In response to questions about cultural, social and emotional wellbeing, empowerment and healing programs for Toomelah, participant responses focused primarily on health and healing.
This included aspects of nutrition, grief and loss counselling and information and programs addressing drugs and alcohol. Focusing on aspects of culture again emerged as a theme and participants saw the importance of programs focused on youth to achieve cultural, social and emotional wellbeing, empowerment and healing.