New partnership to extend mental health support into Australia’s Indigenous communities

An evolution of the partnership between Smiling Mind and the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara  Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC) will see crucial, prevention-focused mental health support extend  even further into Australia’s Indigenous communities.  

A generous $100,000 funding commitment from Envato Foundation, the philanthropic arm of leading  technology business Envato, will give new life to the partnership, allowing for an extension to the tools and  resources already created to infiltrate further across the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY)  region of Central Australia. The region spans 28 remote communities in the tri state region of Northern  Territory, South Australia and Western Australia – an area covering 350,000 square kilometres.  

Over the past two years, Smiling Mind has worked closely with NPYWC, translating its popular in-app  mindfulness sessions into the region’s Indigenous languages, in order to support the communities’ youth with  tools in their native language. To date, the programs have engaged more than 2,500 subscribers, and more  than 5,000 meditations have been completed. Three remote schools in the central desert region have also  benefited from mindfulness training, where educators were supported to foster positive mental health habits  with their students and the wider school community.  

The funding boost will allow Smiling Mind’s psychologists to work with senior Anangu and ngangkari from  NPYWC’s Uti Kulintjaku initiative to develop a series of new resources to support student learning, and provide teachers with additional trauma-informed mindfulness training. This extension in funding will see Smiling Mind  work closely with NPYWC, staying true to the partnership’s guiding commitment to advancing cultural  understanding and strengthening accessibility of proactive mental health resources.  

Commencing with a community consultation process, this project aims to build upon the resources in ways  that address community needs, particularly in response to the toll that long term social isolation during COVID 19 has had on mental health and wellbeing.  

Commenting on the partnership evolution, Uti Kulintjaku Project Officer Dani Powell reiterated the importance  of the planned growth: “Extending the project means customising the mindfulness practices to be more  responsive to the emergent needs of people, including children, in this region. With so much instability and  uncertainty at the moment, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Properly resourcing this project will  provide the means for the senior women and men to be involved at all stages of production.”  

“Anangu heads are full of stress,” said Uti Kulintjaku project participant, Theresa Nipper. “There is so much  stress it is hard to think. We feel worried and scared. Doing the meditations helps us to relax.” 

CEO at Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten, said, “Mental health support should not be hindered by geographic  location, language or cultural barriers. Our work with the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara  Women’s Council is helping deliver easily accessible tools and training to communities that have previously  been left behind, supporting the development of new resources, led by the community.  

“We are incredibly grateful to Envato Foundation, whose generous support is allowing us to continue on  our mission to provide accessible, life-long tools to support healthy minds, harnessing the power of  technology and using it for good”, Dr Wootten concluded.

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