Promising Practice Principles

These promising practice principles were identified in successful programs reviewed as part of the Help-Seeking Project

Services should only encourage help-seeking in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities when there is a social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) and/or mental health program with the capacity to deliver services in response to help-seeking.

  1. Awareness-raising and service provision should occur within a social and emotional wellbeing framework that takes into account holistic models of health, wellbeing and healthcare.
  2. It would be unethical for an agency or mental health practitioner to raise awareness about social and emotional wellbeing or mental health issues without a capacity to deliver a service in response to any help-seeking that might occur at the time, or soon after.

Raising awareness of SEWB and mental health issues is best done by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, or in partnership with culturally competent non-Indigenous mental health practitioners.

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with local knowledge are best placed to raise awareness of social and emotional wellbing and mental health issues, in ways that respect the integrity of the community and preserve the safety and wellbeing of its residents.
  2. The local community will have access to a broad range of skills and knowledge if SEWB workers develop collaborative partnerships with non-Indigenous mental health practitioners.

SEWB and mental health services should be initiated and controlled by the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.

  1. Services and service providers should advance self-determination.

The minimum standard for non-Indigenous service providers should be cultural competence.

  1. As each community is unique in its culture and history, cultural competence or proficiency in one community cannot be automatically transferred to another. Each practitioner will need to begin a process of learning for each community they serve. This also applies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners working outside their own country and culture.
  2. Service providers should follow correct community protocols at all times.

The words ‘mental health,' ‘mental illness' and ‘disorder' should generally be avoided.

  1. A program or service that has positive connotations will be more successful at encouraging help-seeking
  2. Strength-based approaches that do not imply deficit, personal failing or stigma should be adopted

Services should reflect recommendations from key national reports such  as:

  1. Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. April 1997
  2. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Final Report 1991 
  3. Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle "Little Children are Sacred": Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, 2007 
  4. Ways Forward: National Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Policy National Consultancy Report, 1995.  

Services should meet community needs, as identified by that community. This may be facilitated by:

  1. Involving community members in the design, delivery and evaluation of services
  2. Being flexible in response to the community's expressed needs
  3. Being accountable to the community through governance arrangements.

Services should be integrated with other health and specialist services to support referral and coordinated care.

  1. For example, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisations ( ACCHOs), community health services, GPs and medical specialists should be aware of, and where appropriate, have input into, care planning.
  2. As for all patients, referrers to ACCHOs should ensure prior to referral and through timely follow-up that the most appropriate service is available and accessible at that health service.

Non-Indigenous service providers in particular should allow time to establish trust with the community they serve. This can be facilitated by:

  1. Having an open, honest and collaborative approach
  2. Being responsive and present with community members and clients
  3. Showing consistency, flexibility and perseverance
  4. Becoming known personally to the community, avoiding professional ‘personas', and getting involved with community events
  5. Demonstrating the cultural relevance of their service to the community
  6. Ensuring services are of high quality
  7. Expecting to work at maintaining a good reputation within the community.