Volume 7 Number 3
March 14 - April 10 2011
The Bundap Marram Durn-Durn Project (‘Good’ ‘Mind’ ‘Body’ in Woiwurrung language) is the first of its kind to work with health and research organisations to develop a community-based model to improve the wellbeing of urban-based Indigenous Australians.
The two-year project is a collaboration between the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council, the Heart Research Centre in Melbourne, and the General Practice and Primary Health Care Academic Centre at the University of Melbourne. It has been made possible by a beyondblue research grant.
One of the elements that make this project unique is the fact that the idea was initiated and will be driven by the Wurundjeri community.
“This is a real opportunity to look at mental health issues as traditional owners and to tailor services to our needs,” says Aunty Diane Kerr, Wurundjeri Elder and member of the Bundap Marram Durn-Durn project team.
The need for culturally-appropriate and targeted health care was highlighted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mr Tom Calma in the 2008 ‘Close the Gap’ report. “In the urban centres, where the majority of Indigenous Australians live, many choose against using mainstream primary health care even where it is otherwise available and physically accessible,” he writes. “This can be for many reasons including a lack of cultural ‘fit’, language barriers, or the perception that mainstream services are not welcoming to Indigenous peoples.”
Aunty Diane’s personal and professional experience upholds this assessment. “Our people will feel more comfortable with Bundap Marram Durn-Durn because, with the support of our partners, we’re doing the project ourselves, we’re looking at the needs of our community, and we’re delivering it,” she says.
“Social and emotional health play a big part in being well,” says Dr Barbara Murphy, the Bundap Marram Durn-Durn project’s Chief Investigator, Principal Research Fellow at the Heart Research Centre and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. “Through our past studies we know that people who have a chronic disease or have experienced an acute event such as a heart attack experience symptoms of distress.”
According to Dr Murphy around 15 per cent to 20 per cent of people experience major depression after a heart attack and milder depressive symptoms are even more common. “There is an adjustment period which can be exacerbated by social conditions like income, education, access to services, housing and social support as well other chronic conditions including anxiety and depression,” she says.
“The evidence is very clear that chronic disease and mental health are the greatest contributors to the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians,” says Dr Murphy.
“But the strategies for addressing this gap are perhaps not so clear. This leaves substantial room for improvement and the Bundap Marram Durn-Durn project team, in collaboration with key stakeholders, is looking forward to making a meaningful contribution to the community’s wellbeing.”
The Bundap Marram Durn-Durn project will be conducted in two distinct phases. “In the beginning we will be talking to people in the Wurundjeri community and Melbourne-based Aboriginal people with chronic disease who are experiencing anxiety or depression,” says Nell Angus, Project Officer in Aboriginal Programs at the Heart Research Centre. “We want to find out about their experiences as well as their social and emotional health needs,” she says.
“We will also ask Aboriginal service providers who see these clients about their perceptions and training needs for working in this area.”
The second phase of the project will identify, implement and evaluate a culturally-appropriate, community-based pilot program that will both meet the needs of the Wurundjeri community and assist with workforce development to support Aboriginal service providers in helping people manage their own mental health.
Subsequent phases will extend the model’s community-based initiative to link up more broadly with general practice, primary care organisations, and other service providers.
“The grassroots process we are following is absolutely essential to the success of the project,” says Ms Angus. “Not just for the life of this project, but for developing programs and initiatives with the Wurundjeri community which could then be locally adapted for Aboriginal communities living in other urban or large regional centres and other vulnerable community groups.”