Department of Health

A shared vision for Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing in Victoria

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Victorian Government’s Department of Health are proudly working in partnership to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples living in Victoria can access safe, inclusive and respectful social and emotional wellbeing care and mental health services for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Our shared vision is for a mental health and wellbeing system where Aboriginal self-determination is respected and upheld, and where the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health and wellbeing are seen and understood to be interconnected. This shared vision is one where Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing are practiced and valued, and where Aboriginal people have genuine choice in how and where they receive care.

To achieve this, we are building on the strength and advocacy of Aboriginal communities and leaders; the vision set out in Balit Durn Durn, VACCHO’s submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System; and Balit Murrup, the Victorian Government’s 10-year Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework 2017-2027.

The past: learning from what has worked well, and what has not

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System revealed the difficulties that many Aboriginal people have faced – and continue to face – in accessing appropriate care, treatment and support.

A significant number of people, communities and organisations contributed to the Royal Commission, sharing their stories and experiences in accessing services: what worked for them, and what didn’t work.

Drawing on these experiences and expertise, the Royal Commission agreed that social and emotional wellbeing supports and services should be holistic, culturally appropriate and healing-focused.

The Royal Commission’s final report resulted in a record investment in Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing. The Victorian State Budget 2021-22 included funding of $116 million to support social and emotional wellbeing initiatives that are Aboriginal-led and ensure safe and respectful care in both mainstream and ACCO-led settings.

The programs, services and approaches recommended by the Royal Commission have strong connections to the solutions set out in Balit Durn Durn, including the establishment of Aboriginal-led healing centres and investment in multidisciplinary social and emotional wellbeing teams. The recommendations also reflect the ambitions laid out in Balit Murrup of culturally responsive services, building a strong and supported Aboriginal workforce, and ensuring that people can easily access and move between services when they need or choose to.

The present: what we’re doing, and the progress we’ve made so far

VACCHO and the Department of Health are working in formal partnership to deliver on a number of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Since the release of the Royal Commission’s final launch in March 2021, we have:

  • Launched the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarship Program to upskill and grow the social and emotional wellbeing workforce. Our first 13 scholarship recipients have now started their studies, with more scholarships to be awarded later in 2022.
  • Set the foundations for the establishment of the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre of Excellence, led by VACCHO.
  • Provided continuing funding for four Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing teams, so they can deliver multidisciplinary community-based support. We have also started engaging with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) across the state in preparation for building flexible and self-determined social and emotional wellbeing teams.
  • Supported ACCHOs to bring in external health specialists to provide additional social and emotional wellbeing support. This enables ACCHOs to identify and respond to the needs and strengths of their communities, and provide on-site care and support where community members feel safest.

We will be working with Infant, Child and Youth Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services to embed Koorie Mental Health Liaison Officers in selected services, to ensure that Aboriginal children and young people and their families can access culturally appropriate care within the mainstream mental health and wellbeing system.

The future: what’s next and how you can get involved

We know that to bring our shared vision to life, we need to take the time to get it right.

We also know that we need to work closely with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, as well as non-Aboriginal services, to make sure that people, no matter where they go, can find support that works for them.

In the coming months, we will be engaging with Aboriginal communities, the Aboriginal community controlled sector and mainstream mental health services as we continue to work together on these vital reforms and projects.

VACCHO will continue to share important updates with their members and more widely through the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre of Excellence, including opportunities to directly contribute to how new and existing programs and services are delivered.

In order to keep you updated on our progress, we will publish a joint Implementation Plan prior to the end of 2022 to show how our shared vision and ambitions are progressing and what will be achieved as we continue this important work.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

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Jill Gallagher AO
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Katherine Whetton
Deputy Secretary, Mental Health and Wellbeing
Department of Health

Reviewed 12 April 2022

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