A large portion of feedback from the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community concerns mental and physical health, high rates of incarceration of adults and youth, youth suicide, loss of cultural identity among the youth, and drug and alcohol abuse.
In late 2016, 119 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the ACT region responded to a survey focusing on cultural heritage programs. Respondents were asked to prioritise 6 suggested focus areas in order from highest priority to the lowest. At 27% the highest priority identified was using cultural programs to help address health and justice issues and reconnect to culture. At 24% the second highest was recording cultural knowledge to share with the next generation.
The ACT Aboriginal Natural Resource Management (Aboriginal NRM) program has listened to the community's concerns by developing cultural and environmental programs where the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community can participate and reconnect in a culturally safe environment.
Examples of past, present and future programs include:
- engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees through the Culture and Land Management (CALM) program at the Alexander Maconachie Centre
- Kickstart My Career through Culture, a program aimed at disengaged students in ACT schools
- Future Leaders program helping young Traditional Custodians build skills in environment, governance and leadership
- cultural programs with community groups like men's and women's groups
- supporting programs being delivered by the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm
The Aboriginal NRM Facilitator worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) from 2013 to 2017 through the delivery of the Culture and Land Management (CALM) program to detainees.
The CALM program is a partnership with ACT NRM, Campbell-Page, Greening Australia and ACT Corrective Services that focuses on cultural and environmental activities while gaining non-accredited and accredited training (Conservation and Land Management certificate).
Highlights of the program in include:
- sessions on how to identify and protect Aboriginal heritage sites
- making Aboriginal artefacts
- identifying native plant species and soil profiles
- workshops on kinship and leadership
The Aboriginal NRM Facilitator is currently supporting Campbell-Page and Greening Australia in extending a work area for detainees to focus on horticulture training with the aim of supporting the protection of local native grasslands.
Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm
ACT NRM supports the ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) in the development and delivery of a cultural program for the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm. The PCS Healthy Country Unit specialises in cultural engagement and cultural interpretation, as well as many other functions that provide assistance in making sure cultural integrity is upheld throughout ACT parks and reserves.
The Bush Healing Farm is a centre to assist in the rehabilitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. The program delivered by ACT NRM and PCS will provide the participants with cultural understanding and engagement in environmental projects as well as skills associated with traditional tool making and resource collecting.