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KINNECT’s Charity Partner Ngak Min Health unveils new Social and Emotional Wellbeing Spaces

Announcements 04 Dec 2023

Young adults and primary school children at Djarragun College are experiencing the benefits of two new social and emotional wellbeing spaces at Ngak Min Health thanks to donations and in-kind support from partners like KINNECT.

The two new therapeutic spaces, where students can gather for individual and group counselling, or simply come to talk and take time out, were launched at Ngak Min’s second Connection Event in September to celebrate World Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day. A range of mental health service providers were invited to learn about Ngak Min Health’s unique services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.Ngak Min Health in Far North Qld

The first space is located near the primary school and is called the Story Room. The ceiling is festooned with soft fairy lights and vines to create a cosy, magical atmosphere where children can access calming therapeutic toys and sensory tools like kinetic sand during therapy sessions.

The second space, a ‘campfire yarning circle’, was developed for secondary school students. It creates a calm and familiar atmosphere with real sand, a model campfire and mural by local artist Bevan Caulfield, titled “Ceremonial Smoke Serpent”, that celebrates shared history, connection to land and sea, and the strength of ancestral bonds. The space is interactive – students can identify images of their totems in the fire smoke, draw their ceremonial designs on dancing figures with chalk, and pretend to have a campfire while yarning.

Charmaine Nicholls, Ngak Min Health’s General Manager, said that donations from partners, including KINNECT, have been used to create private spaces for the critical mental health work that they do.

“We know that 31 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience very high levels of psychological distress,” Charmaine said “Boarding students are particularly at risk as they grapple with the challenges of learning away from home. For many, it is the first time they have left their home.

“Before we had these therapeutic spaces, we had to do counselling in clinical spaces. With the new support and resources, we’ve been able to create specially designed spaces that are more appealing to the age and gender of the students who come to us,” Charmaine explained.

The campfire yarning circle has already been effective in initiating honest and safe conversations and has become a place that students enjoy visiting. “Because that space is so special and designed just for the students, we find that they are coming to sit there for a few moments, even if they don’t have counselling, just to talk.

“The space isn’t just there if they are having a bad day or feel sad or mad. They can go there if they want share or celebrate something. Having the ability to experience the space for happy moments has made a difference when they want to engage at times they feel fragile or vulnerable, because there isn’t any stigma about going there,” Charmaine said.

Students yarning around the campfire at Ngak Min Health's new social and emotional wellbeing space.

Remarkably, these brief interventions, often only between five and 15 minutes long, are proving to be highly effective for the young people Ngak Min see.

“I’ve challenged staff about why we shouldn’t do more brief interventions in social and emotional wellbeing as we know it works really well in health,” Charmaine explained.

Ngak Min Health are a non-profit organisation who rely on  donations to further their services, purchase new products or and invest in new spaces.

“With donations, we’ve also been able to create a new clinical consult room brining us up to a total of four rooms,” Charmaine said. “It’s expensive to do this with the equipment that we are mandated to provide – even basic items like observation tools, monitors or even a consultation bed are costly. But we’re now recognised as a quality teaching practice and attract medical students in their fifth year from James Cook University.

How much impact will this have?

Charmaine explains that even small donations allow them to continually improve their resources to provide up to date, best-practice therapy to the students: “For example, we’re able to purchase baseline assessments, such as the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales Assessments for diagnosis of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The forms only cost a few dollars but with these donations we can now offer assessments for students who need it,” she said.

KINNECT’s Chief Operations Officer, Dave Hughes said that the team were delighted to see how the donations are being used and hear about the tangible impact they are having on the lives of First Nations students.

“KINNECT have been charity partners with Ngak Min Health since July 2022 when they were named as beneficiary of our 25th Anniversary Corporate Fundraising Program,” Dave said. “Like us, they are driven to help people. It’s encouraging to see the impact that donations are making to their capacity to provide services that improve the lives of Indigenous people in a culturally meaningful way.”

Looking to the future, Charmaine highlighted the important role their programs are playing.Students now have access to well-resourced therapy spaces.

“The need is definitely there – we’d like to triple the program scope because it’s working so well. We hope that one day in the near future we’ll receive federal funding in recognition of this,” she said.


About Ngak Min Health

Ngak Min Health is a family-centred clinic located on the Djarragun College campus in Gordonvale, who provide comprehensive and culturally appropriate medical, health and wellbeing services to First Nations students, their families and the wider community. They are working to address inequalities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Ngak Min Health’s work is grounded in a culturally safe, trauma-informed case management framework that respects the wellbeing of children and young people they work with.

If you’d like to learn more or donate visit  Ngak Min Health – Culturally connected care or Facebook


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