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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

Workin’ with the Mob

Workin’ with the Mob is an Aboriginal family therapy program delivered by the Bouverie Centre and funded by La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of Health.

Because many Aboriginal families are unable to travel to the Bouverie Centre, which is located in Brunswick, Melbourne, it offers an outreach model providing families with the option of single‑session family therapy in their home. Families who access the Workin’ with the Mob program may be seeking help to resolve worries that are affecting the whole family or individuals within the family. These challenges might include family violence, complex post‑traumatic stress disorder, sexual abuse, children living in out‑of‑home care and alcohol and other drug use.

As well as collaborating with families in relation to presenting issues, the Centre also works with families on preventing ongoing transgenerational trauma.

Clarisse Slater, a Yorta Yorta and Kamilaroi woman and Cultural Consultant and Workforce Development Trainer at the Bouverie Centre, said the Workin’ with the Mob program is congruent with Aboriginal culture:

It assumes the whole family and the community are significant for the person with the problem and takes a whole system approach which respects the role of Elders and family members. It also recognises that a person’s context—their country, history and culture—are meaningful for the identity and experiences of the individual.

Ms Slater explained the Bouverie Centre recognises that cultural safety is central to the Workin’ with the Mob program:

The culturally respectful and holistic approach used in the Workin’ with the Mob program is endorsed by Community, other Aboriginal agencies and the families that we work with.

Most families only attend the program for one session. However, the Bouverie Centre tells all families they are welcome to return.

The Bouverie Centre and La Trobe University also run a university‑level postgraduate qualification in family therapy. It is specifically designed for Aboriginal workers who are currently working in the community. Non‑Aboriginal family workers from Aboriginal organisations who have been endorsed by their organisation are also eligible to take part. A review of the program undertaken by the Lowitja Institute described the training program as tailored to meet the needs of Aboriginal families: ‘a hand‑in‑glove fit with Aboriginal people in terms of being holistic, contextual and trauma‑informed’.

Source: Elliott, A, McIlwaine, F, Stone, N & Proctor, K 2015, The Bouverie Centre’s Aboriginal Family Therapy Training Program: Impact Analysis Report, The Lowitja Institute, Melbourne; The Bouverie Centre, Correspondence to the RCVMHS, 2020.