A program hoping to "close the gap" on Indigenous mental health outcomes has received a much-needed funding injection from the state government.
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Minister for Western NSW Tara Moriarty visited Dubbo on Tuesday to announce a $1 million commitment to Marathon Health's Western NSW Aboriginal Wellness Worker traineeship program, which trains Indigenous people to work in remote communities.
"Gone are the days where government comes in and tells people what's right or wrong for them," Ms Moriarty said, announcing the funding.
"What we need to do is invest in people in these communities who know what the issues are and how these issues need to be addressed."
Travis Hill, Brenda Duncan and Max Hill are three of the trainees currently taking the program. They welcomed the funding to allow more trainees to take up the opportunity.
"It's a good opportunity to be able to learn mental health and then come back and be able to provide that support to my community," said Travis Hill.
Max Hill said being Indigenous people themselves, the trainees are able to "break down barriers" and build trust in the remote communities they will go on to work in.
"I believe we all need mental health challenges, it just takes something to trigger it," he said.
"I want to help those really remote communities because it's three or four hours to come to Dubbo to get assistance - and a lot don't have transport and are dealing with property."
Through the program more than 20 Aboriginal trainees will complete studies in mental health support while being employed in communities like Condobolin, Coonamble, Warren, Nyngan, Lightning Ridge, Walgett and Collarenebri.
Marathon Health CEO Justine Summers said the traineeship program not only provides more mental health services in remote communities, but also removes barriers to education and employment for Indigenous people.
"While undertaking studies, trainees will live in underserved communities and receive on-the-job training, upskilling, mentoring and development opportunities," Ms Summers said.
Brendan Cubby, acting program manager of Marathon Health's youth outreach program, said the initiative provides a good incentive for Aboriginal people from small, remote communities to work in mental health care.
"They understand what's going on in community, they know the background - if it's a small community of 2,000 people, they'll know everyone in the community," he said.
"So having that understanding of what's going on and what services are available there... is something that is a great benefit."
Ms Moriarty said investing in support services for people in western NSW and Indigenous communities is a "key priority area" for her as minister.
"It is crucial that the NSW government provides support - including financial support - to Indigenous communities and communities across western NSW. We know that mental health is a big issue," she said.
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