Kimberley program creates strong carers

A unique program to empower carers to take control and improve their own health and wellbeing is currently being trialled in remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Kimberley carers programThe “Stronger Carers, Stronger Communities” project aims to markedly improve the overall health and well-being of older people living in remote Aboriginal communities and their caregivers.

Aboriginal community members are employed and trained as “change champions” and it is the Aboriginal carers in the community who decide what issue it is they would like to address.

The “Stronger Carers, Stronger Communities” project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and conducted by the University of Western Australia’s WA Centre for Health and Ageing.

The four year project was developed following previous research projects conducted by WA Centre for Health and Ageing, UWA that began in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 2003 in Partnership with Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, and Kimberley Aged and Community Services.

Stronger Carers, Stronger Communities Project Officer WA Centre for Health & Ageing Roslyn Malay said the project aims to test an empowerment approach to health service development through collaboration with Aboriginal carers of people with disabilities - including dementia, frail aged and mental illness. 

“The caregivers are supported by myself and Cath Josif (the study project officer) to set the service development agenda and outcomes in a culturally secure and highly participatory manner,” Roslyn said.

“This participatory manner aims to build capacity and drive change.”  

Roslyn said this occurs in half the communities, while the others receive usual practice and information sessions - with the results to be compared. 

Roslyn and Cath travel to the communities, from Broome to mentor the change champions who deliver the program.

Roslyn said the change champions support caregivers to meet their goals and to build their capacity to make further change.  

“This is discussed openly with the community and then the project officers assist the community to achieve these shared goals,” she said.

The research project is due to be completed at the end of August with the benefits of either method – empowerment versus information sessions – still to be determined and analysed. 

Funding is being sought for the community to continue the program following the conclusion of the research in August, however this has not yet been secured.