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Strong community involvement and high engagement lies beneath the success of one of Australia’s most successful programs combatting inhalant misuse in remote communities.
Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC) is based in the Central Australian community of Yuendumu and actively addresses petrol sniffing and other forms of substance misuse. Originally set up as the Mt Theo-Yuendumu Substance Misuse Program in 1994, WYDAC offers a three-pronged approach to dramatically reducing levels of petrol sniffing among its young people.
Firstly, it also offers a safe environment for young people to spend time away from the community for cultural respite and rehabilitation at the Mt Theo Outstation.
Second, various programs are available in Yuendumu to prevent substance misuse and offer opportunities for youth development. The ‘Jaru Pirrjirdi Youth Development Project’, which translates into ‘strong voices’, endeavours to help people aged 16-25 find a meaningful activity and opportunities to discuss their concerns and visions for the future. Other programs in Yuendumu include a mechanics training workshop, swimming pool and a counselling service.
The final component of WYDAC involves youth development programs at the communities of Willowra, Lajamanu and Nyirrpi which focuses on promoting youth development rather than simply preventing and responding to substance use.
WYDAC chief executive Susie Low attributed WYDAC program’s success to the strong ties between the community and board with all communities and family groups represented. She said the board’s 44 members can offer input into the programs at all levels and decide on strategic direction and program development. The program also prioritises local employment with Warlpiri staff, who make up more than 50% of the total workforce.
“This enables two-way skills transfer of both professional and cultural skills,” Ms Low said. “We draw on the skills of people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, working together with a shared vision. We learn from each other.” WYDAC has now extended beyond Yuendumu to other Walpiri speaking communities at Willowra, Lajamanu and Nyirrpi, and is now part of a comprehensive program of care across Warlpiri country.