AN innovative Aboriginal program that aims to strengthen family relationships in the Framlingham community has won a national award.
The “Fighting for your Family” program, developed between the Kirrae Health Service and the Centacare Warrnambool Family Relationship Services, has won the 2012 Catholic Social Services Australia Excellence in Service Award.
Centacare south-west family services manager Lorri Chandler said the program had been initiated by Kirrae Health Services manager Nonnie Harradine. Its aim was to build on the important role that extended families already played in Aboriginal communities.
Mrs Chandler said the program aimed to improve communication between family members and develop honest and respectful relationships.
She said Framlingham community leaders, through the health service, identified families and women who were struggling with family issues and changes, such as the separation of parents.
Difficulties around communication were identified as a key factor in family misunderstandings and arguments.
The program has weekly group sessions which allow conversations and activities to help participants to manage their family issues positively.
Up to 20 people take part each week, sharing a meal and activities such as creating artworks that focus on understanding emotions.
Mrs Chandler said eating together gave participants an opportunity to address tough family issues and show quiet respect and acknowledgement for each other. The awards ceremony in Canberra attracted a swag of politicians keen to learn what made the program successful, she said, adding that the key was to keep the participants talking to each other.
“We talk about expressing emotion,” she said.
“Conflict does not go away without talking about it. Fighting for Your Family was a great example of the importance of working hand-in-hand with Aboriginal communities.”
The national award recognised the importance of cultural collaboration and set a benchmark for future family-centred programs, she said.