Collaboration in the midst of a pandemic

The Kimberley is an expansive region, encompassing over 400,000 square kilometers, more than 30 language groups and approximately 221 remote Aboriginal communities.

The vast geographical area, along with a dispersed and diverse population, means that designing and delivering a service for young people in the Kimberley is a complex job.

Last year WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) and the Mental Health Commission (MHC) committed to explore opportunities to work together and help progress system-wide improvements across mental health, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and suicide prevention services and programs.

In recognition of the synergies in their youth projects in the Kimberley, the two organisations visited Kununurra and Wyndham together last year to join up consultation processes for the co-design of the Kimberley Youth AOD Service and development of headspace Kununurra.

The collaborative process saw the MHC and WAPHA pursuing the vision of local service integration, sending a clear message of their intent to work together for better health in the Kimberley and acknowledging that effective service solutions require strong partnerships.

Both organisations showed agility and the ability to be flexible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delivered in the middle of a pandemic, it was not without its challenges, and highlights the many benefits of collaboration.

The community and stakeholders expressed appreciation for their feedback being heard, and the recognition that frequent consultation in the Kimberley results in a significant time and energy commitment from locals.

Through coordinating their activities, both organisations not only helped achieve efficiencies and reduced the consultation burden on communities, but also provided a stronger foundation for integrated delivery design.

Consultations revealed a community that is steeped in pride, tenaciously persistent, and resilient.

Service providers and young people spoke of frustration that decision makers often overlooked these strengths, subsequently procuring from a deficit mentality in which response is given rather than drawn from community.

The consultation process revealed a history of investment by community to build a local workforce and develop local solutions which they are eager to implement.

It is clear Kununurra is home to service providers and community members who are passionate about building local capacity and leadership within the Kimberley, to ‘grow local’.

Not only would this help create a sustainable workforce, but create local career pathways for young people, increased local leadership capacity and improve the ability to develop local strategies and solutions.

Consulted stakeholders identified the establishment of headspace in Kununurra as an opportunity to bring to life a shared vision for youth health and wellbeing and facilitate service integration and collaboration – something they feel is currently missing.

Both the MHC and WAPHA have used consultation findings to inform their co-design and/or commissioning processes with a recognition that the Kununurra community has requested that if commissioned in Kununurra, the Kimberley Youth AOD Service integrates with headspace Kununurra.

Wunan was recently appointed by WAPHA as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra, set to open in the 21/22 financial year.

In the establishment and operation of headspace Kununurra, Wunan will be considering the consultation findings and feedback and working closely with both existing service providers and the community to provide coordinated services that best meet the needs of the area’s young people and their families.

Read the East Kimberley Joint Consultation Summary Report of Findings and find out more about our recent headspace Kununurra announcement.