January will see Victorian organisation Dardi Munwurro open a new Ngarra Jarranounith Residential service in Bairnsdale, Victoria to support men through behavioural change programs.

An expansion on Ngarra Jarranounith Place, the residential service will house men completing the 16-week behavioural change program focused on stopping men from using domestic or family violence.

Located in East Gippsland, the centre will open and begin taking referrals from January 4 next year and is Dardi Munwurro’s first rural clinic.

Dardi Munwurro CEO Alan Thorpe said the team has already established strong relationships with local services to ensure wrap around support for the men in their healing journey.

“Men come in and do that 16-week program. We wrap some services and supports around them, to give them every opportunity to reconnect with themselves and do the healing and reflection,” he said.

Established without Government funding, Dardi Munwurro built the services from their own reserve in response to community requests.

“It’s all about self-determination, things don’t happen unless you do it,” said Thorpe.

“We have set up it ourselves. We get support for the Melbourne-based Ngarra but not for the regional nor rural.”

The Dardi Munwurro healing framework is one that can be applied and developed within various communities. With immense impact, the program currently has an 82 per cent completion rate and works with local Elders.

“Elders, for me, are the key to it,” said Thorpe.

“We can do all the clinical stuff, but the cultural stuff — that’s what the Elders involved bring.

“It serves the program and us as an organisation, but it also serves the men and the Elders in a way [it] gives them a sense of purpose.”

Uncle Harry Stewart will be working as an Elder within the Bairnsdale residential program.

He has been involved with Dardi Munwurro for two years and is ready to step into the new space in January.

“I love doing it. I’m an Elder, I want to help our culture and help young men come through and try to give them a future,” he said.

“Can’t wait for the new year to start … We’re hoping it will be a success, it probably will take a little while but once we get the community on our side and they know what is going on and we get young ones through the door … that will be where our success lies.

“I’m just part of this big family … I absolutely love it.”

Dardi Munwurro has also established a relationship with the University of Melbourne which will kick off in the new year.

“We have Melbourne University as a partner, they are coming onboard in 2021 to help us research and evaluate. They’re going to do some pro bono for us and are going to evaluate our 1800 number also,” Thorpe said.

“They’re going to be on that journey with us to help us build evidence. They reached out to us!”

Growing stronger and farther, Dardi Munwurro has stayed continually committed to its purpose.

“At the end of the day it’s the culture that is at the core of our spirit. We need that strong,” said Thorpe.

“There’s a western system we need to fit into and adapt into. There’s a spiritual and cultural connection we have to build and restore.

“To me, that’s the work Dardi does. We don’t talk employment and housing, we’re talking about what stops you, what you’re carrying — whether that is intergenerational trauma or whatsoever.

“It’s about getting your spirit back in action and walking with pride. Once you have that you can face anything in life.”

By Rachael Knowles