SalvoConnect Barwon is partnering with a local co-operative in Geelong to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the region.
Working towards a collaborative partnership with the Wathaurong Co-operative, SalvoConnect assisted the indigenous community’s annual “Close the Gap” event in March and will also have a presence during NAIDOC week.
“[It’s important we work with Wathaurong] because they are the local Aboriginal co-op, especially in regards to Close the Gap,” said Kerrie Crtalic, Manager of Lazarus Centre and Men’s Homeless Services.
“Obviously there’s such a disparity between white settlers’ health and Aboriginals’ health and I don’t think people really understand what that means. To know that Aboriginal people can, and do, die 20 years younger I think is quite alarming.”
SalvoConnect Barwon supports people in the region by providing mental health services, women’s services, community support, housing and homelessness services, alcohol and other drug services and chaplaincy.
Kerrie says more than half the men in their housing services are Aboriginal, and working with the co-op is essential to build rapport with the community.
“It’s important for us to support local Wathaurong events, but also for the local Wathaurong people to see us there supporting them,” she said. “It’s very relationally based.”
The Close the Gap event was held at a newly renovated Wathaurong site in Norlane and acted as the opening event for the building.
By serving attendees food, supporting the kids group and having a “yarn”, they were able to link each person with a service provided by SalvoConnect and lessen the gap between white and Aboriginal Australia.
“It was about prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on that day in regards to the services that we can offer,” Kerrie said. “We looked at doing housing assessments and we also had a representative from the withdrawal unit, so drug and alcohol assessments were able to be done.
“Someone was there who was able to offer material aid, and we arranged for gamblers’ help through another local agency – Bethany Family Support. Justice Connect were also in attendance to offer legal advice. It was around making sure that everyone got a service that they needed, and if they weren’t able to been seen, then we did some follow-up work with them.”
The SalvoConnect team wear specially-designed shirts depicting artwork by a member of the Aboriginal community, and The Salvation Army logo to communicate their support.
“It was important ... to make sure it wasn’t all business – that we could sit down and have those more informal [conversations],” Kerrie said.
The SalvoConnect Barwon team will continue to support the Wathaurong Co-operative at events coinciding with NAIDOC week from 2-9 July.