Matthew was one of 10 Aboriginal Mental Health trainees employed across the state in 2019 as part of an initiative to expand the Indigenous mental health workforce.
He now holds a Bachelor of Science (Mental Health) and is a valued member of Bendigo Health’s Community Care Units (CCU). Here he uses his knowledge of indigenous family structure and relationships with the land as he helps individuals work toward mental wellness.
Matthew said due to inherited trauma there is still a barrier between many indigenous communities and mainstream health services. “Unfortunately it’s not that far back to the sixties and seventies when the treatment of aboriginal people was still pretty poor,” he said. “Many indigenous health conditions are socioeconomic related, which is why my university studies had a cultural slant. Practice care plans focused on health issues more commonly experienced by Indigenous communities.”
Working at the 12-bed unit, Matthew helps patients achieve a goal of living independently through long-term rehabilitation. Participants engage in a rotation of life skill activities covering cooking and nutrition, managing anxiety, shopping and travel training and applying for housing. Since working at the CCU Matthew has introduced activities to foster a connection with nature - fishing, bush walks, cycling and the caring for chooks are all on the agenda.
“Being able to work closely with people here is good. I like helping the Indigenous clients who come through and making sure they are getting the mental health support they need. A lot of the times they won’t talk to other people and want to hide things from others. Once we build a rapport and they know who I am, usually they are quite open,” he said.
Matthew also helps with ad-hoc education for Bendigo Health staff.
“I have quite a lot of staff ask questions about family structures and why things are the way they are. It’s all about cultural awareness and offering good pathways for clients they are working with,” he said.
“My hope is I can give people the skills to pass onto others, even just the confidence to ask family members about something.”