Mibbinbah Be The Best You Can Be 

Be The Best You Can Be is an award winning outreach program that builds on the success of ‘Mad Bastards’ – the movie. The movie tells the story of an Aboriginal man on a journey to reconnect with his son – he must deal with his own demons before healing this relationship and comes to terms with his culture and identity along the way. After the movie’s release the filmmakers, including legendary Aboriginal Musicians The Pigram Brothers, were hit with a great demand for screenings by men’s groups and community organisations right around Australia – from Broome to Redfern, from Balgo to Mapoon; in urban, regional and remote Aboriginal communities … people wanted more from the film. Communities saw the value of the film to stimulate discussion around issues for Indigenous men, and as a tool for inspiring change. It became more than just a movie. As a result, a Working Group of Aboriginal community workers and academics developed an outreach program- “Mibbinbah The Be The Best You Can Be program”, based on the award-winning movie Mad Bastards. Built around the six core themes in the movie, it is the companion resource for Mad Bastards. The Guide is the backbone of our Outreach Program which facilitators can use over an eight-week period. The program is designed to be flexible, so it can be adapted for different mobs and community goals. The program has been run by our team since July 2012 at camps, prisons, and local men’s groups. It has generated a significant amount of community and industry demand. Since launching, we have also identified the relevance for of the program’s principles to groups beyond our initial audience of Aboriginal Men and their communities. In order to keep pace with the nationwide demand and to maximise the reach of the program, we would like to develop a “Train the Trainer” program, aiming to educate health professionals to run the program themselves, within their own community. The idea is to build the capacities of local healthcare workers, medical professionals and others who are interested in sharing the Mad Bastards journey with their communities and organisations.  In terms of broader social outcomes, our feedback from participants and facilitators demonstrates that the program is safe, non-confrontational, enjoyable and able to work at multiple levels – individual, family and community. It builds the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women to be strong in themselves, leaders for their community, and encourages ongoing brother care at a grassroots level.  These benefits have the potential for a positive impact across generations … if we can seize the opportunity this moment presents.

Mibbinbah Men’s Spaces leads the implementation of the Mibbinbah Be The Best You Can Be Program; they hold the educational rights to the Mad Bastards film after release to them by Bush Turkey films in 2012. Jack Bulman, a Muthi Muthi man from south-western NSW, and the Mibbinbah CEO is the lead facilitator. Mibbinbah who has worked closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in communities across Australia. Mibbinbah’s role has been to train Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men as community researchers, and gather evidence for strengthening identity, pride, skills and well-being among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Mibbinbah are known as strong advocates through publications, key note presentations and committee membership. They use strengths-based processes when engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, as well as stimulating the re-emergence of cultural practices such as yarning circles, stone knapping, reading landscapes, and healing traumas from the past.

Use of the Mibbinbah Be The Best You Can Be Program fits into a complete eight-week facilitator-led program, exploring the themes from the film. These are: • Deciding to Change • Taking Responsibility • Relationships • Identity • Transformation • Staying Strong  and Domestic Violence

This is based on the group exploring one theme per week including an introduction and conclusion session.  The package also affords a degree of flexibility for groups to engage with as they see fit.  The insights of our working group highlighted the critical importance of creating a safe space to run the program in.  Within this safe yarning space, social, emotional and cultural aspects of Mad Bastards and peoples’ lives can be introduced.  Groups are able to identify strategies for supporting others at various stages of their journeys. Within safe spaces people can hear they each are a part of the solution rather than the problem of poor health and wellbeing. Referrals to appropriate sources of follow up care, including local GPs, counselors and health care services are another important aspect of the program.  Facilitators are encouraged to source local contacts to have on hand during and after the program. The focus for the program to date has been in the men’s health space, targeting Aboriginal males and their communities.  However, in response to growing expressions of interest from organisations nationally, we have since broadened this scope to include women’s groups, prisons (as part of justice re-investment programs) and healthcare programs as well as community and corporate cultural awareness programs.

Research continues to confirm that Aboriginal men have the worst social and health outcomes of any subgroup in Australia.  Aboriginal men are tragically over-represented in Australia’s prison system; they die earlier from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, injury, respiratory disease, cancer and endocrine disease.  Life expectancy for Aboriginal males in Australia is estimated at 18 years less than non-Aboriginal men on average 59 years for Aboriginal men versus 77 years for non-Aboriginal men. Source: AIHW, 2008) The poor health of Aboriginal men has a clear knock-on effect on their communities; to their children, their partners, their culture and their identity. Without strong men, there is little chance for strong families or strong Aboriginal communities to develop. Aboriginal men are seeking to regain their critical place in their own families, communities and within Australian society in general; across the country Aboriginal men’s groups have been formed to provide supportive places for men to meet, yarn and help each other with advice and respect, but these men and their fledgling men’s groups, like Texas in the movie, need support and effective tools to grow strong. “Mibbinbah The Be The Best You Can Be program is aimed at these groups and other community-based organisations such as sporting clubs, health centres, church groups and schools. It will provide a catalyst for open discussions around the role of men, the challenges facing men to take responsibility for themselves their families and their communities. If Australia is to succeed in closing the gap in health, education, housing and employment then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men must resume their place as leaders in family and communities and the Mad Bastards Guide will help that happen.  This program, through its focus on building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander facilitators will enable them to begin as men to lead this change by their own hands.

Mibbinbah National Camps

After much discussion with lads from around Australia, we decided that camps would be important. They would provide a way of engaging supporting and celebrating what  the men were doing well. The men considered this the best way of creating culturally friendly environments. The camps provided occasions for lads to share in traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural activities. Workshops included storytelling, spear-making, stone-knapping, visiting cultural sites, and boomerang and didgeridoo sessions. There were other workshops on media and music, ultimate Frisbee and business governance. Whilst the main purpose of the camps was to deliver health awareness and education, there were other benefits. They assisted to create strong relationships and a supportive network.

Mibbinbah Proper way’ describes a method of delivery that fits with local lore, customs and law. It ensures that initiatives are developed and delivered in a way that is appropriate to local community members. While it ensures culturally appropriate methods are utilised, it goes further by ensuring that the project is firmly located in the local community and is responsive to its members.

Mibbinbah’s learning approach is in line with adult learning principles which stress the need for a variety of learning styles to be accommodated in order for participants to absorb and integrate new learning. Additionally, Mibbinbah utilises a strengths-based approach which recognises that people come to groups with their own knowledge and experience. This knowledge can be added to and built upon in order for participants to further develop their skills, and for the transfer of knowledge to others both in their current and future settings.

This perspective recognises the contribution made by all participants to the groups and workshops. It draws upon the wisdom and experience of Mibbinbah associates to deliver activities in ‘the proper way’ through cultural activities in tandem with additional depression and anxiety related learning. Therefore, it provides an opportunity for participants to identify their own skills and contribute to the learning of others . This also provides a chance for natural mentoring to flourish and helps to build community resilience, develops community capacity and fosters ownership.

Mibbinbah Mentoring

Mibbinbah Limited is a national health promotion charity supporting Indigenous males to gain their rightful place in society through networking and advocacy. Over the years, we have been able to gain insight into what enables men to tell their stories and to rebuild their lives and communities. We call this “Mibbinbah Proper Way”. We celebrate our ability to work together in the present to achieve common goals that bring good to our communities. We remember the past with both its triumphs and its traumas and we recognize the wide diversity of backgrounds that the men come from. We also share a vision of the future where strong leadership provides hope and an elimination of lateral violence.
Mibbinbah can assist communities to enable groups of Indigenous males to mentor the next generation. The men learn the tools of visual storytelling and engaging younger males. Then, they are skilled-up to teach the younger males to listen to and explore the stories associated with language, lore and land while engaging in activities that make learning both interesting and transformative. Finally, they are enabled to pass on the skills required for transferring knowledge to the wider community through a variety of communication techniques.

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