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Innovative partnership provides crucial funding to Hunter’s First Nations Mental Health Program

Awabakal LTD., the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN) and nib foundation have partnered to deliver a community-led Social and Emotional Wellbeing program for the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens regions.

HNECC PHN and nib foundation have both contributed significant funding allocations to support the continued growth of Awabakal’s program which aims to help mob in the community to access and engage with a wide range of culturally safe clinical and social prescribing services.

The SEWB program originally funded by HNECC PHN provides a twelve-week group program to community which covers topics including keeping mentally well, connection, understanding emotions and accessing support, whilst engaging in a range of culturally appropriate activities. The Social Emotional Wellbeing team also provide one-on-one support through Care Coordination and Peer Navigation to improve the lives of mob living with mental health conditions.

Awabakal Ltd, Chief Executive Officer, Jason Smith said that Awabakal Ltd. proudly supports around 10,000 Aboriginal people across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens, which equates to around one third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the region.

“It is widely acknowledged that social and emotional wellbeing factors are a significant contributor in the intergenerational health concerns facing our communities. Our established partnership with the PHN, delivering this community-led social and emotional wellbeing program has been instrumental in understanding the factors that impact our people and coordinating multi-layered support networks to improve our wellbeing.”

“The ability to work in partnership with nib foundation to extend this support will have a significant and impactful effect on our community as we move into an ever increasingly important stage of closing the gap,” Mr Smith said.

PHN Chief Executive Officer, Richard Nankervis, explained that a crucial part of the PHN’s strategy is to partner with others to increase access to primary care across the region.

“This partnership with Awabakal and nib foundation is the result of considered collaboration over time and a first of its kind for the PHN. We welcome this innovative approach as a first of many opportunities to work with like-minded organisations who are aligned to our values and mission,” Mr Nankervis said.

The partnership funding will expand and extend the program allowing for more community members to access the group program, one-on-one support via social worker and access to care coordination.

nib Foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe said the collaboration will assist in building knowledge on success factors for linking First Nations patients with social supports and strengthening community connections.

“The additional funding provides an innovative way to help the existing Social and Emotional Wellbeing program reach more Awabakal clients, building on Awabakal and the PHN’s successful delivery of health service programs. Providing funding to the program takes nib foundation closer to our goal of increasing access to culturally safe and sustainable health and social wellbeing supports, Mrs Tribe said.”

The funding also allows for an increase in resources including transport, food and cultural activities for the therapeutic groups program. Funding provided to evaluate the program will give insight into the importance of holistic culturally specific health services and the impact that they have on community members living with Mental Health conditions.

Announced in the 2023 Federal budget, the Government committed $100 million for a Commonwealth Outcomes Fund and $11.6 million for a Social Enterprise Development Initiative to help social enterprises become “investment ready”. This unique partnership is an example of a local story, pointing to this national movement.

Awabakal LTD’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing program can be accessed by Awabakal LTD medical patients by referral. To find out more information regarding this program or any of Awabakal LTD’s other services, please feel free to reach out via phone 1300 174 908. If you or anyone you know needs professional support, please contact your doctor, local health centre or one of the services listed below. Family and friends can also call upon these services for advice and assistance on how to support someone who is struggling with life. If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000).

  • 13 YARN (13 92 76) – a 24/7 national crisis support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Lifeline (13 11 14) – Call for crisis support and suicide prevention services. Text support is also available on 0477 13 11 14.
  • Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) – advice, referral and support from a trained mental health professional.

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