Providing appropriate support for our Aboriginal community

Wentwest PHN and our funders

Currently, we will not hit the target to close the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by 2031.

Almost one-third (31.7%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high or very high levels of psychological distress, compared to one in eight non-Indigenous Australians (12.3%)[i]. Unfortunately, these mental health needs are not currently being met, and it’s estimated that three in ten Aboriginal Australians who need support from a health provider can’t access assistance due to a lack of available, affordable and timely services.

We have been working in Western Sydney for over 20 years and building strong relationships with local Aboriginal-led organisations and community Elders to develop appropriate services that help close the gap. One of our commissioned services impacting mental health in the community is the Aboriginal Counselling Service.

Aboriginal Counselling Service

Aboriginal Counselling Service (ACS) is a free mental health service that provides intervention and therapeutic counselling for families, individuals and communities within NSW. Established in 2007, ACS is a fully owned and operated Aboriginal business.

ACS supports clients by delivering culturally sensitive counselling tailored to individual needs. Their team includes a counsellor and peer worker who support clients on grief and loss, drug and alcohol, gambling, financial hardship, family violence, sexual abuse, situational crisis and self-harm. Aboriginal Counselling Service have also established collaborative relationships with other Aboriginal and mainstream services in Western Sydney to ensure clients are linked to the most appropriate care. Last year (2021/22), the team delivered 399 services to clients.

Uncle Dave’s story

“I was so lonely and felt very unimportant. Both the counsellor and peer worker helped me to see that they cared and I was important to them” – Uncle Dave*.

Uncle Dave is 63 years old and contacted Aboriginal Counselling for help. However, when he received an appointment confirmation, his desire to cancel the appointment raised some concerns. Uncle Dave was worried that other people were suffering more than him and that his issues were unimportant in comparison. He did not want to waste anyone’s time with his issues.

A counsellor called Uncle Dave and told him that he and the peer worker would be nearby in the next few hours and would like to drop in to say hello. Uncle Dave agreed, and the home visit proved vital to engaging him. The counsellor and peer worker helped validate and normalise his feelings and assured him he deserved support. Following the home visit, Uncle Dave attended nine peer worker appointments and four counselling sessions. He also attended the client Christmas gathering and spoke highly of his experience.

Aboriginal Counselling Service provided psychoeducation to Uncle Dave to help him understand how his thoughts and feelings interact and gave him some tools to manage these. He continues to call Aboriginal Counselling Service to say hello and knows he can book a formal appointment whenever he needs.

Refer Your Patients

ACS accepts self-referrals and referrals from GPs, service providers and other health professionals.

Visit the Aboriginal Counselling Services website for further information.

Discover more Aboriginal health services and resources in Western Sydney on our website.

[i] Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13 (2013).

9 March 2023