Showcasing: Family Wellbeing - An effective social and emotional wellbeing program delivered by and for Aboriginal people

Hunter New England and Central Coast

Lead agency
Central Coast Primary Care  

Living Well domain

  • Putting people first 
  • Making it local

Program Overview

The Family Wellbeing program was developed by Aboriginal Elders in a remote community in South Australia. The elders are survivors of the ‘stolen generation’ who aim to support communities and families around the risks of youth suicide.

Central Coast Primary Care a non-government agency developed the Family Wellbeing program which was the first of its kind in New South Wales, commencing in 2014. It is run by two accredited Aboriginal trainers focusing on Aboriginal young men to build communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution and other life skills to enable participants to take greater control and responsibility for family, work and community life. Participants establish a group agreement to reflect confidentiality and enable honest sharing and trust.


The Family Wellbeing program is premised on the idea that all humans have basic physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. Failing to satisfy these needs may result in behavioral problems and disconnection from culture which has demonstrated to have a significant impact on an Aboriginal person. Young Aboriginal men are most at risk of serious mental health issues and suicide. 


Central Coast’s development of the Family Wellbeing program was in collaboration with Yerin, Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre and Nunyara, the Aboriginal Health Unit of the Central Coast Local Health District. 

The program mainly attracts young Aboriginal males aged 14 to 18 with each program running for 8-10 weeks. Each session is based on a discussion topic that will provide life skills. It offers creative workshops and culture camps to build cultural understanding into the program with a key aspect imparting local cultural knowledge and visiting cultural sites.

Professor Komla Tsey, of James Cook University, with The Lowitja Institute, TAFE SA, and the Bachelor Institute, are helping to deliver and evaluate the program across Australia and internationally to create positive change in Aboriginal communities.

“The program is enriched with material from complementary philosophies and empowerment principles and seeks to empower participants through personal transformation that involves harmonising physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of life and applying this to practical, day-to-day living” (Tsey & Every 2000:510).


Since 2014, 327 people, mostly young Aboriginal men, have participated in the Family Wellbeing program. 

In addition, 51 service providers and family members attended skills development workshops designed to build local capacity to better support young people using a common practice framework.

The young men have made significant changes in their lives, many overcoming difficult family circumstances and significant grief and loss. 

Evaluation results suggest that the program has the capacity to engage young Aboriginal men and make a marked contribution to their social and emotional wellbeing. Kessler Scale scores at the program conclusion showed significant improvement in most aspects of psychological distress. Self-assessment showed very strong improvement in the participants capacity to manage relationships, engage in education and employment, and other mental health and physical health aspects, including taking control of drug use. Through the Family Wellbeing program, participants developed self-awareness and relationship skills, and built a sense of cultural identity, hope and supportive relationships. 

“I have gained confidence and great people skills. The people who were here are amazing and motivating people… would definitely recommend it to future Participants” - Male Participant 2016.

Next Steps

The program was funded by the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network up until the end of December 2019.