‘Knowledge from here is life-changing’ – an appreciative inquiry of Marrin Weejali

Ladies in a facility discussing

At Marrin Weejali, we have an open-door policy. Since 1995, we’ve welcomed everyone into our community hub, a culturally safe environment run by and for Aboriginal people. Our mission is to assist the Aboriginal community of Western Sydney in living free from addiction and emotional distress in a spiritually and culturally significant way. Right now, we’re taking a moment to reflect on our journey and plan for the future with the help of our recent appreciative inquiry – ‘Knowledge from here is life-changing.’

In preparation for our next five-year strategic plan, we are thrilled with the report’s conclusion that we are seen as a highly valued, consistently positive presence in the community. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the findings.

“Marrin’s approach to going above and beyond reasonable expectations, each staff member’s welcoming and non-judgmental approach, and the organisation’s commitment to working at the scales of individual, family and community are all strengths that cement Marrin’s place at the centre of the community.”

A Brief History of Marrin Weejali

Our journey began in 1995 with a cultural healing group established by Tony Hunter on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Windsor. Tony’s personal experiences with displacement, grief, loss and alcohol addiction fueled his conviction for culturally safe approaches to addressing addiction and social and emotional well-being issues among Aboriginal people.

In 1996, Marrin Weejali secured funding from the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (OATSIHS), enabling the employment of staff and the establishment of a centre in Emerton.

By 1999, recognising the need for a systemic approach, Marrin Weejali obtained funding to research and prepare the Western Sydney Aboriginal Substance Misuse Regional Plan, advocating for coordinated actions to address substance misuse.

Capitalising on funding and partnerships, we expanded our programs and services, culminating in the construction of a purpose-built centre in Blackett in 2009. Since then, we have continued to grow, achieving Quality Improvement Council accreditation in 2011 and maintaining our commitment to ongoing refinement.

Our place in the community

“The fundamental thing is that community interests underpin Marrin Weejali’s drive and values.”

While Marrin Weejali lacks specific funding for community development, board members attest to its significant impact in empowering and uniting community members. Partner organisations describe us as a community cornerstone, playing a pivotal role across western Sydney, particularly in the Blacktown-Penrith area. Marrin is perceived as more than a service provider, embodying a broader mission to enhance community well-being and foster collective growth.

Our policy of stepping in to meet identified needs was also recognised. For example, the quick decision to establish an emergency vaccination clinic at Marrin during the worst of the COVID-19 crisis. At a time when face-to-face counselling wasn’t an option, this move was crucial in ensuring that the Aboriginal community could easily access immunisation services. The clinic saw over 60 people per day for several months!

Emphasising a holistic approach, Marrin Weejali focuses on social and emotional well-being, including family support, relationships, empowerment and respect. We have adopted a strong, client-centred approach to the design and delivery of our core services and ensure the unadulterated principles of cultural safety guide them.

We are a safe place

At Marrin, our collaborative approach ensures that clients and the community have access to comprehensive wrap-around services. This allows us to concentrate on our core missions while empowering partner organisations to connect with the community more effectively. We are a school for life that changes and saves lives.

Our positive impact on our clients, families and the community is a direct result of our consistency in adhering to our core values. This is why we are seen as a safe, supportive and welcoming space that fosters healing and growth.

Our comprehensive services cater to individuals grappling with multiple challenges, ensuring they find the support they need. Whether legal advice or addressing health concerns, our approach provides tailored care to address unique circumstances and obstacles.

Suggestions and recommendations

While we offer life-changing and often life-saving services, we don’t really shout it from the rooftops. We’re quiet achievers working to uplift our community. While we’re encouraged by the community’s embrace of our support and their willingness to seek help, we also need a hand ourselves to keep making a real difference.

Suggestions from our ‘Knowledge from here is life-changing’ Appreciative Inquiry include advocating for funding and conducting a feasibility study to explore expanding Marrin’s services on-site, possibly through acquiring surrounding properties. Additionally, negotiating longer-term operational funding arrangements to ensure certainty in future service delivery.

Recommendations for the NSW Government include implementing the findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug ‘ice’ and establishing a dedicated funding stream for Marrin Weejali to support service provision for Court, Community Corrections and DCJ referrals.

A heartfelt acknowledgement

Marrin Weejali extends its heartfelt gratitude to Burns ALDIS for their thorough inquiry and generous support. Since our inception, they’ve been instrumental, assisting with two comprehensive Appreciative Inquiries and the development of our strategic plan. Their dedication and expertise have been invaluable, and we deeply appreciate all they have done to further our mission.

If you’d like to read the full report, click here.

Take the first step towards healing and reconciliation

Do you need support to overcome addiction? At Marrin Weejali, we develop and run programs and services to reduce the physical and emotional distress caused by alcohol and other drugs.

See our Aboriginal drug and alcohol misuse programs and social and emotional support programs.

You are welcome at Marrin Weejali.

Contact us for a confidential discussion.