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Yolgnu Mental health resource aims to break down cultural differences

cdu collaborators showing new mental health resource
Gundirr was launched at Garma Festival and aims to empower Yolgnu people with their mental health treatments

A new mental health resource, launched at Garma Festival, aims to enhance the capacity of mental health service providers supporting Yolgnu patients to achieve patient-centred approaches that include culturally sensitive and culturally informed practices.

A website and app developed through a collaboration of Charles Darwin University researchers, Yothu Yindi Foundation and Yolngu Traditional Owners will equip mental health professionals and patients with easy-to-use resources that aim to break down cultural and language barriers that are often met when working in remote East Arnhem land. 

Part of the collaboration with the Yolngu community in creating these resources was the naming process. The name “Gundirr” was given to the website and app by local Yolgnu Elder Djapirri Mununjjurritj, who explained that the name comes from termite mounds, because relationships are rich and complex.

“You have to dig deeper to understand our people and have a holistic view, we must find that sweet spot of where relationships are formed and connections are made,” Ms Mununjjurritj said.

CDU Alumni and contributor Holly Supple-Gurruwiwi described the new resource as a true collaboration of two-way learning, that will change the experience for Yolngu people who access the mental health system.

“This resource is a powerful tool that will help people work together to form relationships so they can connect and understand their mental health journey,” Ms Supple-Gurruwiwi said.

“By using examples of lived experience, recognisable people and different age groups we hope that it can create the change we need to see in our communities and improve Yolgnu people’s engagement with mental health treatments and prolong practitioners time working remote.”

Gundirr is a two-pronged online resource. The website encompasses fundamental engagement skills and language resources, including video sections on how to engage with Yolngu people. These videos have local Yolngu actors, and actual clinicians who work in the area. There are also videos in language with English subtitles that introduce the clinician to the Yolngu patient. The app which can be downloaded and used offline will also have videos, maps of the local homelands and common Yolngu Matha words.

CDU Head of School – Human Services, and Director – Australasian Centre for Resilience Implementation for Sustainable Communities Professor Mitchell Byrne said Gundirr’s main objective is to help First Nations people who might be experiencing mental health problems to feel empowered by engaging with treatment and to stay engaged with their treatment plans.

“The website and app will become a toolkit for both remote mental health professionals and their clients to engage in a culturally appropriate manner that will break down language and cultural barriers while addressing mental health needs,” Professor Byrne said.

“One of the biggest challenges in the NT for mental health is there is a revolving door both around treatment and staff. With this resource we hope to stop that door.”

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