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Chantelle Bongers, First Nations Lived Experience Lead

First Nations Townsville Consultations

Chantelle Bongers (First Nations Lived Experience Lead),  travelled to Townsville to discuss with local organisations whether First Nations communities identify with the term ‘carer’, what is unique about caring roles within culture and what supports exist to support First Nations mental health carers. The conversations offered some insight into the importance of caring for someone with mental-ill health and how this continues to be a cultural practice within First Nations communities.

A unique caring role was noted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in terms of the importance of caring for country, which needs to be done first before any other supports will be effective. “When you care for country, you care for our people” (Stakeholder). They shared that cultural practices of caring have become harder due to the increasing incarceration of young people. In addition, caring cultural cycles have been broken, thus making it harder for community members’ mental health to be cared for using cultural practices such as a healing garden.

Further conversations highlighted how First Nation mental health carers, and mental health carers in general, are struggling to access culturally appropriate services, and bulk billing options for mental health services and transportation to and from services. One service provider broke down crying when they heard about our carers respite hub and described it as “a piece of heaven that can heal our mob”.

Further work will be undertaken with more stakeholders and community members around the uniqueness of their caring roles and how this impacts on First Nations carers’ mental health and what advocacy areas should be a priority for the region.

For more information contact advocacy@arafmi.com.au or visit arafmi.com.au

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