Last updated: 30 Jul, 2020

New funding to support social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

VicHealth has today announced $340,000 in funding for five projects which support Victorians from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to continue to improve their social and emotional wellbeing.


Among the newly funded projects is the Strong Brother Strong Sister youth mentoring program – the organisation will receive a $150,000 VicHealth Ideas Partnership Grant to expand its highly successful Geelong-based program to Maribyrnong.


In the coming year, Strong Brother Strong Sister will host 50 group workshops and 50 one-on-one mentoring sessions online, and in person when safe, to support young Aboriginal Victorians through the unique challenges the coronavirus pandemic presents.

VicHealth will also provide:
  • A $100,000 Ideas Partnership Grant for the production of Point + Be Proud, a documentary on Aboriginal AFL legend Nicky Winmar and his battles with racism and mental health
  • $90,000 in Indigenous Arts Grants for the extension of three projects, which provide Victoria’s First Peoples with career pathways in the writing, fashion and music industries: Melbourne Writers’ Festival First Nations Capacity Building Project, the Indigenous Runway Project – Deadly Fashion Design Program and theBarpirdhila Foundation's Youth Programs.


VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said we must celebrate the work by Aboriginal-led organisations and support them to improve the health and wellbeing of their own communities.

“This funding will support First Nation’s and other organisations to continue to empower Aboriginal Victorians to get involved with arts and cultural and creative experiences to help reduce isolation and loneliness, and support social and emotional wellbeing,” Dr Demaio said.
It‘s an incredibly challenging time for Victoria’s First Peoples right now. Coronavirus is making it difficult for Aboriginal Victorians to connect to culture and community, while racism is creating enormous amounts of stress and anxiety.
“While it’s vital we do more to support the mental health of Aboriginal Victorians, we also need to stamp out racism and discrimination through education and speaking out when we witness acts of discrimination.”
Strong Brother Strong Sister Chief Executive Officer Cormach Evans said the project would provide support for young Aboriginal Victorians at an incredibly difficult time.
“We are excited to be extending our programs into the Maribyrnong region and applaud VicHealth in backing an Aboriginal-owned business like ours to deliver this work. Our young people design our programs and we can't wait to work with the young Aboriginal people in the area,”Mr Evans said.
“We see first hand the continued impacts of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, the ripple effects of The Stolen Generation and racism in this country. We aim to provide young Aboriginal people with attainable role models, tailored plans and real pathways to achieve their greatest dreams and aspirations.
“The coronavirus crisis has tangibly affected the mental health of our community. During this really difficult time our young people are looking for a positive place to connect to community and culture online. Our online youth groups are a place for young Aboriginal people, who might be feeling disconnected, lonely and anxious about the world, to share their experience with others, learn a new skill or make a new friend. Bringing our young people together online is vital to their wellbeing right now.”
VicHealth has funded St Kilda Football Club to develop Point + Be Proud a documentary by filmmaker Peter Dickson on the impact of racism and discrimination experienced by football legend Nicky Winmar.
The film will also be distributed to schools to teach students about the importance of rejecting racism.
Former AFL player and St Kilda Football Club’s Indigenous Liaison Officer Nathan Lovett-Murray, who has been leading the project, hopes the film shows how racism affects the mental health of those who experience it.
“We are wanting to create a change in the way people think when it comes to racism and bullying,” Mr Lovett-Murray said.
“We want people to understand the impacts of a person’s mental health when it comes to racism and bullying. This is why the Point + Be Proud documentary and schools program is so important. The support from VicHealth has been essential and has made this project a reality.”
The Indigenous Arts Grants will continue to support valuable foundations established by projects interrupted by the coronavirus:
  • The Indigenous Runway Project – Deadly Fashion Design Program will provide opportunities for up to 15 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in career building activities in the fashion industry. Indigenous Runway Inc. will partner with Kangan Institute to introduce up to 15 Indigenous young people to an exciting world of fashion where brands and independent creativity matters and explore the basic foundations of product development. The program will utilise fashion as a vehicle to reveal new career pathways to young Indigenous people and help push both professional and creative boundaries.

  • The Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) First Nations Capacity Building Project will continue to build on ongoing First Nations engagement, a priority in their 2019-2023 strategic plan. MWF will continue working with a First Nations program advisor to drive relationship building, strategy and staff development as they move towards the launch of an ongoing self-determined First Nations program within MWF. This program will lead to greater employment and engagement opportunities for Victorian First Nations writers,readersand community.

  • The Barpirdhila Foundation's Youth Programs will continue to provide platforms that nurture, develop and support Aboriginal excellence within the creative industries through regional youth camps, performance opportunities, artist development programs and music industry/business workshops. This funding will enable the delivery of youth music workshops and performances, including Girls Rock! Koori Camps in Healesville and Shepparton, and emerging artist showcase events in professional Melbourne venues for young Aboriginal women and girls who have not performed in public or who are new to performance.

For mental wellbeing support, contact Lifeline 13 11 14, BeyondBlue 1300 224 636,  Headspace 1800 650 890 or visit the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc. website:


VicHealth Senior Media Advisor–Shannon Crane: 0432 157 270[email protected]