'Grannies' offer a guiding hand

A SIMPLE network of grandmothers is helping solve problems of alcohol and drug abuse and family breakdown in the Aboriginal community where larger organisations have failed.

The volunteer Grannies Group provides support, encouragement and listening ears where family groups have lost the steadying influence of wiser older generations .

Members of the South Australian-based group visited Portland, Heywood and Warrnambool this week to help establish a similar system in the south-west.

After more than 10 years the inaugural Grannies Group has proven an effective force in addressing problems affecting Aboriginal children and their communities.

The achievements were highlighted at a national conference in July attended by south-west Victorian Aboriginal services members who invited the Grannies to visit.

"We need support groups like this over here," said Berny Haby-King of the Portland-based Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Services.

"It's through the presence of the Grannies Group that there can be more support and understanding of problems in our communities.

"We've already got an age gap and need need our elders to come back and teach the little ones.

"Our younger people need to feel they can speak to us confidentially.

"It's not about dobbing in mum or dad, it's about getting help for the parents.

"To find a better way of living and a better lifestyle.

"There's no on-going funding for this group.

"They go to schools, co-ops and health organisations.

"We can break the cycle of abuse. It's a way forward."

Grannies Group was established in 1999 as a peer group of Aboriginal grandparents.

It aims to form partnerships around Australia.

As well as providing support for families, the group also wants to make Aboriginal organisations to be more accountable for funding to service the community and work work with governments and other key stakeholders in providing direction on issues.

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