South Sudanese Australian Minds – three ventures for better mental wellbeing
- Young South Sudanese Australians
- The Australian Centre for Social Innovation
- The Department of Health and Human Services
South Sudanese Australian Minds encompasses three ventures designed by young South Sudanese Australians to support the mental wellbeing of their peers. Awak, Nanchok, Aguang, Nayndng, Atoug and Deng worked with other young people and older people to research, develop and deliver these ventures, and adapt them for COVID contexts. They are Culture Party, Conversations between Generations and Mindful Mondays. These are spaces that facilitate safe and brave mental health celebrations, conversations and reflections. They are currently hosted on Instagram and Facebook through live streams, and have offline adaptations for post-lockdown times. See https://ssa.tacsi.org.au/ for more.
The three ventures went through a rapid co-design process of development, in order to build on previous work and prioritise delivery and learning while doing. Developed by young South Sudanese Australians, the ventures are functional, engaging, safe, high quality and are set up for sustainability. The design and delivery process was facilitated by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), an organisation with 10 years of professional social innovation and co-design experience.
The user experience is designed by young people for young people, leveraging the platforms (Instagram and Facebook live streaming), visuals and language that work best for the audience.
These ventures build social capital and mental health awareness and capability in young South Sudanese Australians. So far around 400 young South Sudanese Australians, mostly in Melbourne but also interstate and overseas, have taken part, as well as many older people. They have seen their peers or children talk openly about their own mental health journeys, asked questions of South Sudanese and African Australian mental health professionals and shared their own stories. A review of the ventures is being undertaken currently by Clear Horizons to summarise what has been heard from participants. The ventures are low investment, and can flex from online to offline as our contexts change.
The delivery of these three ventures demonstrates that it is possible for state governments to commission community-led, collaborative service design and delivery. The budgeting of the project was unique, with TACSI auspicing funds for South Sudanese Australian communities, again demonstrating alternative project approaches within existing commissioning structures. With these ventures, Victoria is demonstrating to other states and countries the value of embedding co-design, having community governance and encouraging flexibility in changing contexts, and how this is practically possible within current structures. This project is a step toward a future where communities are leading the activities that affect them.
This work was commissioned in response to clusters of youth suicides in the South Sudanese Australian communities of Western metropolitan Melbourne, as well as violence against and within the communities, all symptoms of ongoing stressors affecting mental wellbeing. The ventures are an innovative approach to the taboo topic of mental health, bringing together different generations, tribes and genders around the common concern for young people. Many young South Sudanese Australians continue to build their platforms to share stories of their experience, and these ventures are unique in their broad audiences and the involvement of mental health professionals.
The governance group supporting the design process includes a younger and older South Sudanese Australian majority, cohealth, DHHS and the North West Metropolitan Primary Health Network, facilitated by TACSI. Organisations such as South Sudanese Australian Youth United and Community Support Groups (auspiced by Centre for Multicultural Youth), as well as South Sudanese and African Australian academics and mental health professionals who shared their skills, experience, connections and knowledge for this work.