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Support for Indigenous parents in remote regions

Friday, 02 December 2011


One ECU researcher is working to improve the way Indigenous parents are supported in remote regions in Western Australia.

School of Psychology and Social Science Senior Lecturer Dr Andrew Guilfoyle has received $210, 614 from the Commonwealth to work in collaboration with Save the Children Australia in assessing parent support.

The Indigenous Parents Support (IPS) works with four Bardi Jawi communities - Beagle Bay, Ardyaloon and the twin communities of Lombadina and Djarindjin in the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome.

The IPS project aims to enhance parenting skills, build more connected and resilient communities, reduce disadvantages due to isolation and increase social engagement among families. It is delivered through three levels of involvement:

  • Information, promotion and prevention;
  • Assistance and Family Engagement –Practical or therapeutic; and
  • Early Intervention support and referrals to local specialised services.

Dr Guilfoyle believes that projects of this nature do not work without a clear understanding of and respect for community traditions.

“It is important to understand and listen to your community. If done correctly communities feel empowered and want to participate in these projects as it gives them a sense of ownership and a voice for their issues,” Dr Guilfoyle said.

“In my experience, more than most, Aboriginal communities embrace every opportunity to address the needs of their children, family is everything,

“The issue these communities suffer from are imposed agendas, processes and problems. The IPS project will help communities address their concerns from within, providing support to parents for problem areas that they have identified.”

IPS employs six local community workers led by project coordinator and local community member Blanche Bowles.  This team works closely with Dr Guilfoyle to identify areas of opportunity and need, creating actions at a community, family and individual level that respond to these, which can mean linking to the 42 services visiting the region.

Ms Bowles invited Aboriginal Master Chef Mark Olive to host Cook and Catch sessions which showcased the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. This was also a unique opportunity for fathers and their children to display traditional practices of fishing and hunting using customary and cultural techniques.

Dr Guilfoyle will be visiting the region every six months for the next three years, providing empowerment-based training to IPS support workers and interviewing community and service agencies members to collect data for the project.


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