NAIDOC Week and Cultural Connections in the Riverland with Sam Mitchell

29 October 2020

Cultural Connections is a program aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men to Heal through connection to culture.

My name is Sam Mitchell, I am a local Aboriginal man who was born in Berri with family ties to the local Aboriginal community (Gerard) on my mother’s side. My mother was an Abdulla before she got married, her mother, my nana, was a Disher before she got married.

I also have cultural ties to the Narrunga Nation on the Yorke Peninsula (Point Pearce), my grandmother was a Milera before she got married and her mother, my great grandmother, was a Newchurch before she got married and also cultural ties to the Kaurna Nation (Adelaide Plains).

I have worked at Life Without Barriers for nearly three years as a Case Manager in our Homelessness Assertive Outreach program. Previously I worked in an Aboriginal Youth specific Mental Health program with young people and prior to that I worked in the Department of Education in a local primary school as a mentor for young Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal men for nine years.

I have a strong passion for creating awareness about positive mental health for our people especially our young men. My hope is to further develop the Cultural Connections program to be run in local schools and partner with other agencies.

Cultural Connections is a program aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men to Heal through connection to culture.

I facilitate Life Without Barriers’ Cultural Connections program for young Aboriginal Men aged 13 and above. I facilitate two groups - one in the community and another for groups of young men in schools from year 6 and above (10 week program).

Our Community group meets fortnightly in a culturally appropriate space, generally out by the river or the lake. Where the men discuss issues that affect us directly as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men. Issues such as racism, fatherhood, being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Man in today’s society, and what that may have looked like 230 plus years ago. We also talk about grief and loss, alcohol and other drugs misuse, positive mental health and positive Aboriginal Males modelling in our community. We do this through a range of activities through art, woodcarving yarning circles and strength based group activities.

The men have identified that they would like to link with other men from other communities to heal together, create artwork, teach young men to make traditional tools and artefacts. We have done this by asking the community members what they would like to get out of the group, what expectations they have in and from the group and other members of the group and myself as a facilitator of the group.

The school program is a similar program to our community group, but is based for younger men in schools and which I have developed through my studies of my Diploma of Narrative Approaches for Aboriginal People.

Each week has a topic and a body part and small group activities to create discussion throughout the group. By doing this we create open and honest dialogue for the young men to express themselves about issues that affect them as young men is our community.

We look at the young men to identify positive Aboriginal role models they know, risk taking and decision making, positive relationships in our community.

Interested in joining an upcoming session? Click on the links below for more details.

  1. 4 November

  2. 18 November

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