Raypirri Rom Wellbeing

Fiona Djerrkura

Fiona Djerrkura

Anyone living in Yirrkala who wants to buy take-away alcohol must apply for a permit through our committee. Many things are taken into consideration when we are making recommendations on whether to approve a new permit or increase or not. We consider things like whether that person has a record of violence or disruptive behaviour when their drunk, whether there are young children that live in the house where they want to drink, or the health /mental condition of the person. It’s a really strong committee and our recommendations are never knocked back. The Committees allow yolngu to control how much alcohol is consumed in their communities. Miwatj have both indigenous and non-indigenous staff on both the Yirrkala and Gunyangara Committees. Miwatj are very supportive of this and always encourage their staff to be involved in these meetings”. (Fiona Djerrkura, Co-ordinator of the Raypirri Rom Wellbeing Program)

On the Gove Peninsula, in Yirrkala, Gunyangara, Galupa, Birritjimi and Nhulunbuy, the Raypirri Rom Wellbeing Program helps maintain the safety and wellbeing of families and children. This program assists communities in dealing with family violence and clan conflict, self-harm, alcohol and drug misuse (including petrol sniffing) through crisis intervention, early intervention and prevention.

The program employs Yolngu workers, answering to an advisory committee of elders which monitors and authorizes the team’s work and is consulted before employing new staff. Much of the team’s work stems from its presence in community, where Raypirri workers have built up a high profile and, on a daily basis, mediate for harmony when there is the threat of violence. Yolngu Rom (principles, ways,) and Raypirri (respect and self-discipline) underpins the team’s work. The program uses a ‘both ways’ approach, combining mainstream processes and cultural interventions, and particularly difficult or ongoing problems are taken to elders for guidance and advice. Raypirri workers also accept referrals from individuals, families and agencies from across the Gove Peninsula. The team has an active outreach role at local schools and the drug and rehabilitation centre, and implements a range of initiatives to engage people requiring assistance.

In the Food for Thought program the Raypirri team join with staff and clients of the alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Nhulunbuy, to share a meal with people dealing with alcohol/drug issues in the hope they will start thinking about seeking help. It allows people to talk about their needs and issues in a safe, informal environment; provides information and options for people seeking help; creates support networks; and promotes healthy living. It deliberately stays informal, so that people do not feel pressured when they come to have a meal.

A combination of the workers’ daily presence in community, knowledge of a referral process, and other regular events has established Raypirri Rom at the forefront of community-based initiatives to tackle the consequences of alcohol and drug misuse on the Gove Peninsula. Other private and government agencies in the region, as well as Yolngu leaders, look to the Raypirri team for advice and involvement.

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