Dream it Forward by ConnectGroups

ConnectGroups (the peak body for peer Support Groups in WA) partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Western Australia in 2013/14 to conceive a project modelled on its successful small grants brokerage service, the Pay it Forward Plan. The project’s purpose was to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peer-based groups to support place-based social and emotional wellbeing activities.  Dream it Forward was launched in 2014/15; is now in its second year and has gained trust and credibility throughout the state as an effective healing model, and complementary support to mainstream mental health services.

Dream it Forward has worked because of 3 keys to success:

  1. Working with a Partner

ConnectGroups recognised that working with an Aboriginal partner was critical to opening paths into community, and collaborated, through each promotion phase, with Shaun Nannup, a senior Nyoongar man. The strength of this partnership facilitated promotion of Dream it Forward into the regions and allowed ConnectGroups to:

  1. Connect with community leaders and Elders
  2. Effectively communicate the principles of the program
  3. Promote the key message of place-based solutions
  4. Building Relationships

Effective collaboration with community leaders and Elders has been critical to building trust.  Listening, and respecting the impact of intergenerational trauma, dispossession, grief, and loss, is at the core of stakeholder engagement.

Effective collaboration is also based on working together to strengthen capacity – ‘helping’ is a deficit approach.

  1. Local Place-Based Solutions

The community is best positioned to identify healing initiatives that positively impact social and emotional wellbeing.  Projects are strengths-based, community-identified, led and delivered.

Dream it Forward projects strengthen community resilience by reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors.  This is achieved by embedding cultural understanding into the design and delivery of activities, and acknowledging that connection to country, culture and community is fundamental to Aboriginal identity and subsequent healing.

Projects include strategies encouraging social inclusion and improved access to services, and create culturally-secure environments to reduce stigma and harmful behavior, promote healing, and improve quality of life.  Projects have covered a wide variety of tools, methodologies, and services to engage communities, and to address issues affecting youth, the stolen generation, women, new fathers, disengagement, and communities struggling to cope with AOD-related harms.  Projects always include an element of yarning, critical to the holistic approach to healing.

The Dream it Forward model gained traction in community because local place-based solutions are what have been articulated as needed in community.  Local solutions re-engage community, strengthen cultural identity, and give community members a voice in their own healing.  This traction is reflected in the 150% increase in submissions over the pilot year.  Dream it Forward has further demonstrated that small investments in community ideas can have big outcomes.

Antonella Segre
Chief Executive Officer, ConnectGroups.




























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