Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Mibbinbah and Spirit Healing: Fostering Safe, Friendly Spaces for Indigenous Males in Australia

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Mibbinbah and Spirit Healing: Fostering Safe, Friendly Spaces for Indigenous Males in Australia

Article excerpt

This article seeks to share some of the insights that have been gained through a participatory action research program exploring the issue of safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in Australia. The three-year program sought to build the capacity of the men, their organisations and their communities. It began out of the friendship of two men and expanded to include dozens of men and a number of key organisations through time. Thus, recounting some of the beginnings, progress and conclusion of the process offers some understanding of what might be possible in terms of improving the health of Indigenous males. The focus has been on a strengths-based, or salutogenic approach we call "Spirit Healing." This article seeks to provide insight into safe spaces for dealing with depression and anxiety and supporting community-based Indigenous male researchers. In the end, safe, well-facilitated spaces foster and further respect while they diminish lateral violence and its consequences.

Keywords: Indigenous male health, spirit healing, safe spaces, transfer of knowledge, diversity, participatory action research

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This article seeks to do a number of things to help readers understand some of the possibilities for improving the health of Indigenous males in Australia. It does not pretend to speak about every possibility or even to represent the majority view on these matters. Instead, it seeks to recount something of the beginnings, progress and conclusion of an important research program conduted on behalf of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH) as it has been known in the past. Early in 2010, the CRCAH was incorporated into the newly formed Lowitja Institute (Australia's National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research), which has changed both its structure and its focus somewhat. In large part, this is due to a need to meet the exigencies of current funding patterns and future research concerns. It is, as yet, unclear what place Indigenous male health will have in this third, and perhaps final, funding iteration for the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

However, in June 2007, the previous iteration undertook a partnership with La Trobe University (Bundoora) to explore the meaning and importance of safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males. The participatory action research program was intended to build capacity in organisations and communities, as well as in and among the men. The official nomenclature of the program was CD-219, "The Indigenous Men, Health and Indigenous Men's Sheds/Spaces Research Program." However, it was soon known as "Mibbinbah," Men's Place. The language is that of the people of the Eastern Yugambeh and is used as a sign of respect for the late Bernie Williams who was our first patron.

In a very real sense, this article recounts the story of a partnership between two men in the beginning. It grew to incorporate many more men such as Uncle Bernie and his son, Craig. Mibbinbah Limited is now a not-for-profit Indigenous male health promotion charity seeking to cover the whole of Australia.

So, this article will begin by providing a short background to the issues and circumstances relating to Indigenous male health in Australia. Then, the methodology of the research program will be delineated. This will set the stage for discussing important learnings in relationship to: a) strengthening male friendly practice and health promotion, b) dealing with depression and anxiety among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, and c) the importance of supporting community-based male researchers. The article will conclude with some final thoughts about the nature and importance of such research partnerships. Throughout the article, respect is the one concept the binds everything together.

THINKING ABOUT INDIGENOUS MALE HEALTH IN AUSTRALIA

The two authors first met in 2004. …

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