Stepping Black Indigenous Corporation Australia has been recognised at the 2019 Queensland Mental Health Week Achievement Awards, run by Open Minds, for their work strengthening First Nations community, family and individual mental health.

The organisation won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award for their Safe Aboriginal Families in Eidsvold (SAFE) program which works to create consistent and culturally safe social opportunities for men, women and young people in the North Burnett region.

The program was created collaboratively between First Australians, the local community and local service providers.

Zona Hussey-Smith, SAFE Program Manager at Stepping Black said the program is aimed at strengthening communities with art and is based on the traditional platforms of men’s business and women’s business as well as their own created kids’ business.

“We do creative activities with the women. Using arts we are able to create a really culturally safe environment, where women feel safe to yarn about whatever they want to,” Ms Hussey-Smith said.

“The idea is around families and communities having the conversations themselves to identify what issues there are in the community and helping them come up with solutions that work for them on their terms.”

Stepping Black also hosts a weaving weekend where 50 women from different communities come together to create and yarn.

“They weaved their stories, they shared knowledge … [learned] about each other’s cultures [and reconnected] – finding family members they didn’t know they had,” Ms Hussey-Smith said.

“You allow people to be in that space and for these beautiful connections to happen. It was just the most extraordinary weekend.”

Winning the award has validated the work that Stepping Black is doing in community.

“The SAFE Program utilises this depth of traditional wisdom and knowledge and applies it in a modern context to enable our First Australian families and communities to show pride in their culture, to maintain a strong identity and to take their rightful place in our changing society,” Ms Hussey-Smith said.

“The award cements that what we are doing is a good thing. What makes us different is that we are taking that strength-based approach to mental health as opposed to the deficit-approach.”

Although doing important work, Stepping Black is a not-for-profit organisation and is seeking funding.

“We want to keep doing what we are doing, we want to be able to do more. Our aim is to empower our community now and into the future.”

For more information on Stepping Black, please visit: https://steppingblack.com.au.

To nominate an organisation for next year’s awards, please visit: https://openminds.org.au/achievement-awards.

By Rachael Knowles