Innovation for Change

Learn more about the Innovation for Change Award Finalists

The Innovation for Change Award is presented by Lotterywest for outstanding innovation driving change for better mental health.

Aboriginal Males Healing Centre

The Aboriginal Male’s Healing Centre Strong Spirit Strong Families Strong Culture Inc (AMHC) is a charity based in Newman in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. AMHC will offer an alternative to incarceration for men that use violence against women and children. The centre aims to heal these men and break the cycle of violence; and provide a safe and secure place for women and children. The safety of women and children is their paramount concern. The AMHC will offer a 12-month residential healing program incorporating western clinical care and rehabilitation methods (Duluth model) underpinned by Aboriginal culture and lore as the key healing element.

All programs are developed and delivered by respected Elders in collaboration with the clinical team. The AMHC will offer a holistic approach to healing over an extended period giving enough time for the men to develop life skills, a sense of responsibility, meaningful employment, good physical health and emotional and spiritual strength. Throughout the healing process, AMHC will aim to protect the safety of women and children by providing a safe and secure environment.

Men can enter the program on a voluntary basis or be referred by the courts. The demand for the AMHC is anticipated to be high. Accordingly, residents referred by the courts will be prioritised. Under Western Australian law, there are various ways in which the AMHC program can be mandated by the courts such as: a condition of bail; a condition of a Community Based Order or Intensive Supervision Order or deferring a sentence for a period during which the offender can be subject to conditions.

The impact of family violence on women and children is significant. Women experience physical and emotional trauma, depression and anxiety, homelessness and poverty. Children suffer from inadequate brain development and learning problems; and are likely to think and act differently to children that have been raised in a safe and secure environment. The long-term impact is dysfunction and disadvantage – poor health, low participation in employment, alcohol and drug abuse and criminal activity. Family and community networks can be disrupted; leading to a loss of culture, identity and connection to the land. 

Family violence creates intergenerational cycles in which trauma and the propensity for violence is passed from parent to child. For families and communities caught up in this cycle, violence can become normalised and an expected part of family life. Inter-generational trauma from colonisation, dispossession of land, forced child removal, racism and discrimination has resulted in Aboriginal people being considerably over-represented as users, and victims, of family violence.

There is currently a patchwork of programs to address family violence in Aboriginal communities; but there remains a lack of coordination and consistency in approaches.

An emphasis solely on criminal justice responses to family violence is an ineffective solution to the problem of family violence. The safety and well-being of the women and children is not always best served by a custodial sentence. Incarceration simply removes the men from the community for a period of time and then returns the men to the community without effective rehabilitation. The impact of incarceration on individuals, families and communities is enormous. Those who have been incarcerated and their families are at greater risk of poor housing, financial stress, low levels of educational attainment, poor employment prospects and poor health and well-being.

For Indigenous people, connection to culture serves as a protective factor and helps build resilience and strength in identity. The social exclusion and isolation through incarceration may lead to a loss of connectedness to culture. Unfortunately, the delivery of culturally aware and responsive programs has been found to be intermittent in prisons. There is a clear need for both cultural strengthening services that help cultivate a strong Indigenous identity and regular opportunities to participate in cultural activities.

The program is designed in accordance with the findings of a significant bank of research conducted by the AMHC over the past 5+ years and reflects the principles of the Duluth Model.

Devon Cuimara, founder of AMHC has lived experience with inter-generational violence and abuse and started the program to help others after a period of self-healing.

Amy Wallace, Andrew Miller, Charl Van Wyk - Graylands Hospital / Cyrenian House AOD Partnership

Graylands Hospital is an inpatient psychiatric facility in WA that houses 54 acute psychiatric inpatient beds. In 2017, Amy Wallace the Clinical Nurse Specialist for Physical Health care (CNS PHC) and Andrew Miller a Senior Occupational Therapist (Snr OT) for acute stream services, were allocated the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Portfolio for Graylands Hospital. With pro-active, can-do attitudes, Amy and Andrew went about identifying any gaps in the AOD services provided to inpatients during admission, on discharge and when transitioned back into the community. 

The service addresses co-occurring AOD and mental health issues, the difficulties linking patients with community services, the decreased ability of consumers to access services, lack of knowledge on what they can access and id designed to:
• Improve access to AOD support for individuals and their support networks both in hospital and then following through into the community.
• Provide seamless transition of AOD and mental health support from hospital to community care. 
• Address the need to work in partnership with speciality services to achieve optimal patient functioning into the community. 
• Offer a AOD specialty service which helps identify the underlying factors related to the AOD use, including trauma.
• Harm reduction
• Individualise care specific to the patients’ needs.
• Embed a service in the hospital that allows patients’ repeated exposure to make well informed decisions about accessing specialty services for their AOD issues. 

The results observed have included:

A successful Initiative and partnership which could be extended to other inpatient mental health services. 
• Cultural shift in the sector directly targeting and addressing the high prevalence of co-morbid mental health and AOD issues. 
• Improved systems, processes and pathways to address comorbidity
• Reducing readmission
• Reducing LOS
• Reducing bed days
• Direct admissions to rehab from hospital
• Harm reduction – enhancing self-care, self-worth and saving lives
• RELAPSE PREVENTION
• Seamless transition of care for consumers and their families. 
• Successful reintegration into the community with improved occupational performance and participation i.e. Development of meaningful and positive productive roles, leisure engagement and routines i.e. employment, tafe.

Shire of Murray

The ‘Completing the Circle’ project was developed by the Shire of Murray to address the health and wellbeing of young Aboriginal people living in the region. The project was in response to statistical data indicating that young Aboriginal people living in Murray were more susceptible to mental health concerns, with a rate of Aboriginal youth suicide higher than the national average.

The Bindjareb community-based in the Murray region were significantly impacted by early settlement in Western Australia. Pinjarra, was the location of the Pinjarra Massacre, an attack that occurred on a group of Nyoongar by a detachment of 25 soldiers, police and settlers which resulted in the death of up to 80 Aboriginal people and one police officer. The event is one of the most notorious massacres of Aboriginal people in Australian history.

The Completing the Circle project looked at the linkages between the Peel regions dark history and mental health statistics for Aboriginal people living in the area. It adapted the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel model, derived from other First Nation communities, to address generational trauma and provide a holistic approach to healing to improve mental health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

For a traditional healer, an imbalance (e.g. Loss of traditional values) may affect decision (e.g. Leading to drug and alcohol use). Through the medicine wheel, Shire of Murray created balance across four quadrants: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual healing to achieve growth in each aspect for balance and wholeness.

The project has resulted in the following outcomes:
• Improved relations between Council and the Aboriginal community
• Better education around mental health and improved integration of services
• Increased connection to country and culture for Aboriginal people
• A more connected community, focused on improving wellbeing and quality of life for all.

Broome Recovery College

The Broome Community Recovery College is a place where people come to learn and teach through sharing real life experiences alongside researched knowledge.

People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds participate in courses that develop ideas and skills to reach personal goals and aspirations.

Courses are designed and delivered by collaborative co-production teams that include people experiencing mental health difficulties, and/or issues with alcohol and other drugs, interested community members, and health workers. 

"As a concept, the Recovery College turns everything on its head by addressing the power imbalance and it puts respect back where it should be. It challenges archaic structures and systems in the mental health system. Being challenged like this gives us a great opportunity to observe the benefits from an alternative way to help people thrive and blossom in their recovery.” - Clinical educator

“For me the College is a place of healing. I have changed my beliefs about myself and my outlook in life. I feel secure and can make my own decisions. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Before the Recovery College I could not see that light.”
Lived experience student.

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