Growing our own to close the gap – voices of the people who matter most
Systemic failure by health and education initiatives over the past 15 years continues to highlight the desperate need for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, health practitioners and teachers to work on their home communities as role models, agents of real and sustainable change and custodians of cultural and spiritual knowledge. The cultural authority, relationship leverage and personal investment for long term positive change and the re-imagination of a healthy community future is embedded in the very essence of their existence, and yet continues to remain under utilised, under-valued or poorly managed.
In 2012, after winning an award for outstanding leadership in this area, the Remote AOD Workforce Program partnered with Red Dust Role Models and their NT Manager to develop and implement a community development framework to support their suite of clinical resources for the purpose of further empowering their local Indigenous AOD workers with attitudes, skills and professional capacity with community development principles, to be embedded within primary health care settings and community life. Four years on, the leadership and daily grind of this 70 strong workforce remains dynamic yet constant. Community AOD issues vary as the seasons change and programs and policies come and go, but the workforce and its core purpose largely remains the same – to walk alongside their people as they provide AOD clinical, cultural and real community support to the people who matter most, as they overcome their AOD, health and wellbeing issues.
We will examine the fundamental Indigenous leadership values harnessed by this framework, unpack community development principles in practical contexts that ‘make sense’ to Aboriginal community, consider how aspects of cultural identity and responsibility and complexities of community life for workers is so often overlooked and yet critical for acquiring, developing and sustaining a strong workforce.