Donna Smith, left back row, with members of the Halls Creek Healing Taskforce

Donna Smith, left back row, with members of the Halls Creek Healing Taskforce

The Kimberley’s Halls Creek is a town and surrounding shire of great divides, racialised, of pronounced inequalities. Local Elder, Donna Smith said more has to be done for Halls Creek’s First Peoples who are on the outer when it comes to jobs, opportunities and quality of life. Ms Smith said “you will not find our people with the jobs in our towns and communities.” Ms Smith is worried about the youth. She is part of the Halls Creek Healing Taskforce, a conduit of hope that she said “must be Aboriginal owned”.

Halls Creek has low employment levels of its local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents. Ms Smith said that inadequate skills learning opportunities exist in the town for its First People. The local Elders are concerned that alcohol and drugs will grip their children, their youth to relieve them from the boredom of their aimlessness in the face of all the inequalities.

Ms Smith said that the Healing Taskforce is underfunded and that it needs to be adequately resourced in order to provide a 24/7 service that enables the full suite of prevention and postvention services for the youth of Halls Creek, and for their families and for cultural programs in addition to any existing interventionist support.

“Often we need someone ready to respond to someone who is at-risk at say 3am in the morning. Helping those at-risk is not a 9 to 5 thing only,” said Ms Hall.

Ms Smith said that the Healing Taskforce represents the needs of the people and the communities of the shire of Halls Creek in the area of social and emotional wellbeing.

“We listen to what people want and need, to what their issues are and are then best placed to explain to government agencies how community wants them to work.”

Ms Smith said the Healing Taskforce needed funding for a 24/7 crisis response capacity and for a crisis helpline. At this time some funding has been secured to ensure that these services will be set up by the end of the year and run through the Jungarni-Jutiya. But a long-term funding commitment would stabilise budgets and planning and coordination. The Taskforce does not have enough funding for community counsellors who can work as mentors and in the crisis helpline service. Funding is needed to develop a Healing Place on Country program – teaching, learning and healing on Country.

The Halls Creek Healing Strategy initiative was created out of listening to the needs and hopes of residents of Halls Creek and of surrounding remote Aboriginal communities.

Similarly to the well-known west Kimberley program, the Yiriman Project, the Halls Creek Healing Strategy seeks to empower people and build resilience and capacity.

“It is the journey of change that people, families and communities want to go on to move beyond the trauma of the past that is leading to a cycle of grief, depression, cultural loss, self-destructive actions and suicide.”

“The journey will be different for each person and family. It can mean different things to different people. It might mean cultural healing, it might mean strengthening faith or it might mean overcoming addictions.”

“The Halls Creek Healing Strategy will support the community to heal.”

Ms Smith reinforced the need for local First Peoples to guide the ways forward, to enable the healing. This will lead to stable local leadership, to local ownership of problems and solutions, to local planning, to role modelling, to the empowerment of the local First Peoples.

“This strategy will not succeed without being driven by and having the involvement, support and guidance of local Aboriginal people.”

The Halls Creek Healing Taskforce is in pursuit of a holistic whole of community involvement.

“The Halls Creek Healing Taskforce will have members which include a balance of men and women, young people, Traditional Owners, Elders from major family groups and representatives of Aboriginal Corporations as well as members from different language groups, town communities, remote communities, and churches.”

“The Halls Creek Healing Taskforce will bring service providers together to support the Healing Strategy. The community wants service providers to work better together and avoid a crossover in programs. The Healing Strategy will be driven by the Halls Creek community and not by a Government department. This is different to how it has been done before.”

The Healing Taskforce can provide support to service providers to optimally engage with families and individuals they have referred.

Ms Smith said that the First Peoples of Halls Creek face many pressures and the disparity between them and non-Aboriginal residents is wide. Ms Smith reinforced that this disparity cannot be allowed to replicate itself within any Healing Strategy, the ways forward must be owned by First People and if this is the case hence half the journey is completed.