Rural and Remote Mental Health are focused on improving the quality of life for those living in remote communities, those that may struggle to gain access to professional help for mental illness or simply drop into a GP. We have a strong commitment to providing much-needed health promotion in remote indigenous communities. Where we witness the hard work of other organisations working towards this common goal, we like to acknowledge their work and their efforts towards our common mission. Red Dust is one such organisation.

Red Dust is a Northern Territory based charity working with the Pickertaramoor, Woolianna, Peppimenarti, Nauiyu, Yurrumpi, Mparntwe, Walungurru and Utiu people. Similar to RRMH, Red Dust runs 3 core programs tailored to our first nation’s people; Healthy Living, Strong Young Men and Boys and the Strong Young Women’s program. Here we share our interview with Scott Stirling, Red Dust CEO. Scott gives our readers an explanation of who they are and what they do.

“Red Dust inspires positive change in remote Indigenous communities through a unique ‘community-as-family’ model of health and well-being programs. For over twenty-five years we have drawn on the strengths of both western health and traditional cultural knowledge that influence young people in the community. Our positive role models and engaging, high impact programs help build resilience in young people and inspire them to identify and pursue their dreams. We also work together with Australians more broadly to help build cross-cultural competency through tailored cultural training and community immersion experiences,” said Scott.

“As an organisation, we recognised early on that culturally responsive programs elicit higher levels of engagement and so our long term commitment has been to build the cultural capacity of our teams, as well as build local community capacity to be part of program design and delivery. A key strategy has been the employment of NT-based First Nations team members who play a vital role in developing and delivering culturally relevant programs.

Red Dust programs are available to more than 4,500 people that make up the remote communities we work with across Central Australia and the Top End regions of the Northern Territory. This includes several communities in the West Daly region, Tiwi Islands and the Western Desert region.

The rich diversity of the people within these regions means that no two communities are the same. While many are closely connected through regional and family ties, they all represent different cultural and language groups and identify specific needs when it comes to health and wellbeing improvements. Having said that, we acknowledge that remote communities share many common needs when it comes to accessing culturally responsive health services, affordable food, and suitable accommodation.

The mental and physical health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains stubbornly large and is especially acute in remote Australian communities. Mental health issues and suicide are particularly prominent.

Our programs are designed to address mental and physical health through a positive strengths-based approach. We strive to avoid the deficit construct which is implied through policies such as “Closing the Gap” and prefer to draw on existing community strengths centred around culture, language and family.

In summary, our key programs work towards:

  • Improving the mental and physical health of Indigenous youth by partnering with remote communities to increase health knowledge and promote healthy lifestyle practices.
  • Enabling Indigenous Australians to realise and maintain cultural identities through positive role modelling and cultural preservation activities.
  • Enabling Indigenous Australians to identify and pursue aspirations by increasing opportunities to gain exposure to new experiences.
  • Improving cross-cultural competency by creating connections of value between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Most mainstream programs lack local relevance for remote Aboriginal participants as they tend not to focus on cultural health, cultural healing, and the development of sustainable local leadership.

We invite individuals looking to get involved to be part of the Red Dust story. By joining the Red Dust Circle individuals are helping to enhance the delivery of our unique community-as-family model of health and well-being programs for youth and families in remote communities.

To join, individuals can visit our website https://www.reddust.org.au/get-involved/red-dust-circle

For organisations looking to partner with Red Dust, or to progress their cultural learning journey as part of their Reconciliation Action Plans you can email partner@reddust.org.au to set up a yarn with the Red Dust team.