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Red Dust partnership making a positive impact in the Red Centre

A partnership between the Salvos and Red Dust has transformed many lives in Alice Springs.

Partnerships play a vital role in living out The Salvation Army’s mission of transforming lives and restoring communities.

One such partnership is the collaboration between The Salvation Army and Red Dust, a community organisation, implementing intergenerational Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) programs for men aged 18 and above on Arrernte lands in Alice Springs.

For a decade, The Salvation Army ran an Indigenous AOD recovery program out of Alice Springs. With challenges such as unmet targets, staffing issues and program revisions, it was evident that a change was needed.

Tam Tran, National AOD Specialist, helped instigate the partnership.

In 2019, territorial leadership acknowledged the significance of having Indigenous leadership running the program, prompting Tam Tran, The Salvation Army’s National AOD Specialist, to approach Red Dust.

Red Dust soon became the delivery partner of the program, and The Salvation Army maintained the government contract, meeting accreditation and governance requirements. Six months into the partnership, the program was exceeding its goals.

Between July 2021 and June 2022, the program saw approximately 200 yarning circles being facilitated, 146 brief interventions provided, 15 suicide prevention actions and 18 referrals to other services.

Kathryn Wright, General Manager for AOD, says that the cultural knowledge and leadership Red Dust brought to the delivery of the program – through outreach activities, cultural trips and yarning circles – was critical to its success.

Kathryn Wright, General Manager for AOD, says fostering a connection to Country is critical.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, connection to culture and Country has a direct link to a significant reduction in alcohol and other drug-related harm. Of course, it makes sense, as a connection to Country increases First Nations people’s sense of self and belonging,” Kathryn explains.

The program takes a trauma-informed approach, acknowledging the impact of personal and intergenerational trauma on people and their journey to recovery. This critical approach establishes a sense of safety and trust through the various activities Red Dust runs throughout the year. Some of these include:

• Camps and day programs that focus on providing knowledge and skills to inform healthy decision-making around topics such as the misuse of drugs and family violence.

• Yarning circles that are aimed at connecting as individuals and groups.

• Discussions around what it’s like living in the ‘intergenerational gap.’

• Discussions around living in a ‘white man’s’ world while maintaining their culture.

• Vocational activities, practical life and work skills such as Bush mechanics, fencing and cement work, and artifact/traditional tool making.

There is also a focus on Elders passing on their knowledge to younger men, conversing through several generations. Specifically, the ‘Elders’ group’ has helped clients obtain better access to traditional knowledge and perspectives, reconnecting a sense of identity to places of history and belonging. Between 2021 and 2022, 39 new clients engaged with this group through the partnership with the Salvos.

Exploring spirituality is another key element to the delivery of the program, which has led to a deeper sense of culture, identity and faith. This results in a strengthening of first-hand participants, their families and communities.

The ‘Train the Trainer’ initiative is another example of the support Red Dust is able to equip previous program participants with the necessary skills to become trainers themselves. By passing their knowledge and passion, participants become living proof of the program’s sustainability and potential for long-term change. Throughout 2021-22, Red Dust employed four Alice Springs-based Aboriginal men and four Elders as coordinators, drivers, cultural guides and facilitators.

Red Dust’s ability to connect to these communities is reflected in the growing number of participants joining the activities. These connection points help provide a stronger sense of self, cultural safety and alliance to community members, something the Salvos haven’t been able to do previously but are working on through such partnerships.

But the partnership is twofold. From Red Dust’s perspective, collaborating with the Salvos meant they could gain their own accreditation, which took 8-9 months.

Fred Docking, Service Manager and Northern Territory Coordinator, says the program is ‘achieving new heights’.

Fred Docking, The Salvation Army’s Service Manager and Northern Territory Coordinator, shares, “The Salvation Army assisted Red Dust in getting accredited, enabling them to secure funding and achieve new heights.

“Capacity-building has allowed Red Dust to grow independently while the partnership continues to provide employment opportunities, lifting people out of poverty and making a positive impact on individuals, families and communities.”

Tam Tran added, “We’ve given them the resources and template, they did the work and are now going beyond that and delivering more support for more communities.”

Although there is still much work to be done in this space, Fred explains that there are four pillars of recovery – safety, hope, health and community. Addressing these in a culturally safe environment is the key to delivering true transformation in any community.

For more information on Red Dust, go to the website here


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