Bunjilwarra – a Healing journey for Aboriginal youth
Bunjilwarra is an Aboriginal youth alcohol and other drug (AOD) residential rehabilitation service situated near Melbourne. Bunjilwarra has been operating as a partnership model between the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Youth Advocacy and Support Service since 2014. In this time Bunjilwarra has built cultural and clinical practice knowledge using trauma informed practice, cultural wisdom and youth AOD resilience-based frameworks.
The Bunjilwarra model of care draws heavily from the Aboriginal designed Social and Emotional Wellbeing framework which locates individuals at the centre of an intersecting and layered wheel acknowledging colonisation, relationship to country and kinship. Bunjilwarra delivers holistic care, recognising the significant challenges faced by Aboriginal youth from urban and regional Australia, such as family violence, racism and transgenerational trauma. The Bunjilwarra program is staged to reflect the healing journey and growth experience for Aboriginal youth and is designed to support the developmental needs of young people with a focus on vocational pathways.
Bunjilwarra has provided care to over 200 Aboriginal youth with an average stay of 49 days. To measure the effectiveness of the program we have embedded the Aboriginal Resilience and Recovery Questionnaire (developed by Dr Graham Gee, Clinical Psychologist). Bunjilwarra is the first Aboriginal youth service to use this inventory as an outcome measure and cultural therapeutic tool; with results providing reliable insight into client strengths, helping to counterpoint the pervasive deficit focus applied to Aboriginal youth.
Aboriginal youth voice and strong partnerships with Aboriginal families, community-controlled organisations, mainstream health, including visiting headspace services, and youth justice agencies provide the key to Bunjilwarra’s success. Bunjilwarra will openly share early data and their story so far, highlighting enablers and blockers to improving outcomes and healing for Aboriginal youth.