BADAC is leading the way in indigenous health

Mental and physical health specialists will attend an Indigenous men’s health night on December 1, one of many health initiatives making Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative a sector leader.

The night will feature “yarning circles” with Indigenous men, a neurologist, dentist, psychiatrist, sexual health nurse, prostate nurse and a GP.

Practice nurse Anthony Harrison said it was a chance to bring the community together and start a conversation about health.

“These nights give us an opportunity to engage with people who we might not see otherwise,” he said.

“These fellas are socially isolated and you wouldn't hear anything from them otherwise – to see the change in them is quite significant.”

HELPING: Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-op mental health nurses Peter Treloar and  Kelvin Wilson and practice nurse Anthony Harrison (centre).

HELPING: Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-op mental health nurses Peter Treloar and Kelvin Wilson and practice nurse Anthony Harrison (centre).

BADAC first ran a health forum in 2013 and established an Indigenous men’s group supported by United Way, “Ballarat Bruthas”, which mental health nurse Peter Treloar said was improving mental health outcomes.

“It gives the blokes the opportunity to have a chat, and it gives us as mental health nurses a chance to identify if any of them aren’t looking so flash, so we can have that conversation about how they’re going,” he said.

Two success stories from the group include a young man with schizophrenia who has become more socially confident by attending meetings, and a 60-year-old man with mental health problems who has overcome isolation.

Victoria’s Mental Health Services Report, tabled in parliament this week, found Aboriginal people were over-represented in mental health services and suggested the development of an Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework.

Mr Treloar said with their community focus and emphasis on holistic health care, BADAC should be held up as an example of good Indigenous healthcare.

“This is the sort of model that works really well, and you don’t see it too much,” he said.

“Kelvin (Wilson) and I have worked in mental health for 30-plus years, and we’ve never worked at an organisation that has a set-up like we have.”