Victorian specialist Aboriginal men’s healing and family violence prevention service, Dardi Munwurro is changing lives and healing communities reveals a new report.

The report, Strengthening Spirit and Culture: A Cost Benefit Analysis of Dardi Munwurro’s Men’s Healing Programs, was released today.

Funded by The Healing Foundation and facilitated by Deloitte Access Economics, it examines Dardi Munwurro’s three programs.

Dardi Munwurro CEO, Alan Thorpe, said the programs work with men to address a range of issues that can lead to violence, including trauma, mental health issues, drug and alcohol misuse, unstable housing, unemployment, and identity issues.

“We create a space where men feel safe to talk about their feelings and emotions,” Thorpe said.

“We talk about relationships and family, and your responsibility as an Aboriginal man. We support the men, but we challenge negative behaviours.”

The report found that each dollar invested into the organisation provides a return on investment of 50 to 190 per cent.  The largest benefit coming from a reduction of incarceration rate.

The rate of incarceration for Dardi Munwurro clients decreased from 13 per cent pre-program to 4 per cent post-program. Each avoided case of incarceration saves $90,000 per annum.

The report found a reduction in the number of men reported to have a recent episode of domestic and/family violence after program completion and a reduction in the rates of men reporting issues with substance abuse.

Dardi Munwurro’s work also saw a 100 per cent reduction in homelessness, 12 clients reporting homelessness prior to entering the programs and none reporting homelessness six months post-program.

Thorpe notes that the report reflects the work that he sees every day.

“You know spiritually and culturally you’re making a difference … When you’re in the frontline and you’re doing the work, you see that transformation and change. That makes you feel real proud, it keeps you going. It keeps you charged,” he said.

“We know spiritually and culturally we’re making outcomes, but the report just help people, and the mainstream, understand. They want to see the evidence and so this demonstrates that.

“You can talk about the work, you can express and articulate it, but having people external capture it objectively. It gives it credibility.”

The report shows the realities of self-determination, First Nations-led programs.

“The evidence is there, we’re reducing incarceration, we’re reducing housing issues, we’re reducing substance abuse, we’re healing, we’re addressing family violence.”

“It represents a holistic model. It reflects on the difference in all those aspects,” said Thorpe.

The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Cornforth said that the program reflects the need of governments to invest sustainability into First Nations-designed and led programs for First Nations men.

“This important report provides the evidence that governments stand to make significant savings if they invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s healing,” she said.

“Yet First Nations men’s healing and violence prevention programs face a constant battle to access funding.”

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth at the report launch in Preston VIC. Photo supplied Dardi Munwurro.

“We’re the oldest living culture in the world, we can show some good things in this world. We can show mainstream how to do things, they can learn from us. We have to reverse this, it’s time they listened to us and what we have to offer,” added Thorpe.

All participants involved in the program reported a greater connection to culture, a stronger sense of identity, improved relationships and connection to community and increased responsibility for behaviour, the report concluded.

Thorpe noted that spirit and cultural connection are the centrepieces of Dardi Munwurro programs. 

“Healing is the centre, but it has that ripple effect. When you get spirit strong, it has a ripple effect in everything else you do,” he explained.

“It makes me emotional; I see it, I see community start to thrive. It isn’t about fitting into the western world, it’s about us being strong in culture, in spirit and restoring our roles and feeling proud.

“Being able to walk around with that strong spirit. That’s what gets me out of bed every day and makes us do what we do.”

Thorpe acknowledges the investment and support of both The Healing Foundation and Deloitte Access Economics.

“I’m so grateful for the people who have invested in Dardi, and I’m grateful for the Healing Foundation who have seen the work, understood it and realised it not just about funding programs – it’s about building evidence.

“They, and Deloitte Access Economics, see that bigger picture.”

By Rachael Knowles