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Yolngu mental health tool unveiled at Garma Festival

Joseph Guenzler -

Gundirr, a new mental health tool was recently introduced during the Northern Territory’s Garma Festival.

It aims to empower mental health service providers, aiding Yolngu patients in adopting patient-centered strategies, encompassing culturally sensitive and informed practices.

Crafted through a partnership involving researchers from Charles Darwin University, the Yothu Yindi Foundation, and Yolngu Traditional Owners, a website and app will supply mental health experts and patients with user-friendly materials.

These resources aim to dismantle cultural and linguistic obstacles frequently encountered while operating in the remote East Arnhem region.

The Yolngu community's involvement in crafting these tools also involved the naming process.

The website and app were named "Gundirr" by local Yolngu Elder Djapirri Mununjjurritj.

She explained the name is derived from termite mounds, symbolising the depth and complexity of relationships.

"You have to dig deeper to understand our people and have a holistic view, we must find that sweet spot of where relationships are formed and connections are made," Ms Mununjjurritj said.

CDU Alumni and contributor Holly Supple-Gurruwiwi described the new resource as a true collaboration of two-way learning, that will change the experience for Yolngu people who access the mental health system.

“This resource is a powerful tool that will help people work together to form relationships so they can connect and understand their mental health journey,” Ms Supple-Gurruwiwi said.

“By using examples of lived experience, recognisable people and different age groups we hope that it can create the change we need to see in our communities and improve Yolgnu people’s engagement with mental health treatments and prolong practitioners time working remote.”

Gundirr operates as a dual-equipped online tool, using essential engagement techniques and language references.

Notably, it features video segments demonstrating effective interaction with Yolngu individuals.

These videos showcase local Yolngu actors alongside practicing clinicians from the region alongside videos presented in the Yolngu language with English subtitles, serving as an introduction between the clinician and the Yolngu patient.

Furthermore, the downloadable app enhances accessibility, functioning offline.

It includes videos, maps of local homelands, and a compilation of prevalent Yolngu Matha terms.

CDU Head of School – Human Services, and Australasian Centre for Resilience Implementation for Sustainable Communities Director, Professor Mitchell Byrne, said Gundirr’s main objective is to help First Nations people who might be experiencing mental health problems to feel empowered by engaging with treatment and to stay engaged with their treatment plans.

"The website and app will become a toolkit for both remote mental health professionals and their clients to engage in a culturally appropriate manner that will break down language and cultural barriers while addressing mental health needs," Professor Byrne said.

"One of the biggest challenges in the NT for mental health is there is a revolving door both around treatment and staff. With this resource we hope to stop that door."

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