Indigenous Mens Access to Justice Project: Gamarada Men’s Healing Program
The Gamarada Men’s Healing Program(GMHP) was established in Redfern in 2007 by local volunteer Aboriginal leaders. This was partly in response to increased recognition of the need for healing and life skills programs for Aboriginal men and the links between poor mental health and interaction with the criminal justice system including disproportionately high levels of incarceration. The GMHP is based on a peer support and self-healing and life skills development model with a strong underpinning of cultural renewal and spiritual growth. In its early development the program had become well recognised for its positive impacts on Aboriginal male participants.
PIAC received funding in 2009 through the Public Purpose Fund (PPF) to establish a two year Mental Health Legal Services Project (MHLSP) trialling four pilots to increase access to justice for four chronically disadvantaged groups in the community: young homeless people who are mentally ill, refugee survivors of torture and trauma, people from non-English speaking backgrounds with a disability who are mentally ill and Indigenous men who have experienced trauma. The broad aims of the MHLSP were:
- To explore the unmet legal needs of people in NSW who are mentally ill;
- Through piloting innovative strategies, to initiate sustainable, effective processes to meet those legal needs; and
- To systematically identify and respond to the barriers to justice facing people in NSW who are mentally ill.
Due to the alignment of the GMHP with the intent of the MHLSP, the Indigenous Men’s Access to Justice(IMAJ) was established as one of the MHLSP pilots to work closely with the GMHP. An Indigenous mental health worker was appointed who is a graduate of the Djirruwang Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health program at Charles Sturt University. He was experienced in Indigenous men’s healing, mental health and social-emotional well being and has been one of the leaders in the development of the Gamarada Program.
During the period of the MHLSP through the IMAJ pilot the GMHP has developed considerably and recently established itself as a non profit foundation with a constituted Board; it has also implemented a number of linked initiatives and programs.