Indigenous trainees saddle up to help kids

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Professor Juli Coffin with the Yawardani Jan-ga trainees and program workers.
Camera IconProfessor Juli Coffin with the Yawardani Jan-ga trainees and program workers. Credit: Picture: Telethon Kids Institute

A group of Broome-based Indigenous health workers are helping develop a mental wellbeing trial that uses horses to help people to express themselves openly.

Known as Yawardani Jan-ga — or horses helping — the trial capitalises on the ties between Aboriginal people and horses and rodeo culture in the Kimberley to enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of youngsters while building leadership skills.

It is an adapted form of the global Equine Assisted Learning model, which uses horses to build emotional skills and personal development, and will be rolled out in the region.

The seven health workers are training by taking part in a trial to gather feedback on the program curriculum before helping deliver it to other young Indigenous people.

Broome’s Professor Juli Coffin, from the Telethon Kids Institute, has led the Yawardani Jan-ga measure, with similar initiatives being held across the State, such as Nguudu Barndimanmanha — making horses good — in Geraldton.

Professor Coffin said training local Aboriginal people in EAL had several benefits, including building the capacity of people who had grown up in the Kimberley to support the social and emotional wellbeing of its youth.

She said it would also upskill the health workers and “maximise the potential of service integration”.

A TKI statement said the Yawardani Jan-ga program had the potential to fill a critical gap in the region by providing a non-acute, culturally secure service addressing the complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural issues experienced by local Aboriginal youth.

“It also offers opportunities to identify and strengthen leadership skills, and build their capacity and confidence to communicate and influence others,” it said.

The seven trainees are set to deliver the EAL model next month. Their training was supported by Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service through National Indigenous Australians Agency funding.

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