At a unique five-bed facility in Alice Springs, an inspiring team of 15 people is working to rehabilitate at-risk youth through ‘Bush Adventure Therapy’. The BushMob vision is simple but significant: “Journeys are made in Central Australia by and for young people to get the self-respect, trust, courage and skills to have a good life – because grog, sniffing, drugs and crime are no good”.
According to BushMob director, Will MacGregor, “This vision came from talking in the riverbed, under trees and out bush to see what people across cultures in Central Australia thought about going bush as a way of detoxing, being with good people and culture and beginning on the healing path.” This approach has seen many young lives put successfully back on track.
The Minister for Indigenous Health and member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, said the BushMob service helped local young people deal with immediate issues, as well as giving them new skills to get their lives back on track. “From its humble beginnings as a pilot program more than a decade ago, BushMob has grown to become a real success story in Alice Springs, helping thousands of young people and their families overcome the harmful effects of substance abuse,” Mr Snowdon said.
During their eight-week stay, each participant undertakes normal schooling as required, then for the two-day break they head out bush under the guidance of Head Stockman Chris Ryder. The group heads out to the remote community of Santa Teresa, about an hour’s drive from Alice Springs. They pack basic necessities and a swag. While there, they learn about the land from elders and sleep under the stars. Chris says that heading bush is his favourite part of the job.“As well as doing outreach, I like doing things out bush. I get to teach the kids about the land. They learn about respect, the bush and the trees.” The trip into the great outdoors has a very positive impact on the participants says Chris: “They seem much happier when they leave.” Chris has been with BushMob for a couple of years. He has noticed one of the biggest barriers that the outreach workers come up against, initially, is that some participants don’t want to talk. “Some of the kids are very shy, this can be hard, but we have staff on hand (to help with issues like this),” he says.
The dedicated group offers 24-hour care, case management, counselling, and life-skill development programs, education and training. Participants are able to have a support person stay with them while they are on the program. As well as the initial rehabilitation, the set up they have at BushMob is such that young people can come and go while they still need support – if there is space for them at the centre. With this kind of support, the staff get to see many breakthroughs that make it all worthwhile. “There are memorable breakthroughs every day, however three in particular (stand out). One young woman returned to work, got her own flat and is happy. (Another) young woman worked with us, after some years of engaging with our program, doing basic invoicing and book entry for our accountants. She is currently running an elders’ program in a remote North East community. One young man has relocated to Darwin and is now working with the Northern Territory Government,” Will MacGregor says.
Earlier this year, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform, and Warren Snowdon, Minister for Indigenous Health, visited BushMob to announce that they would be receiving a much needed funding boost to relocate and expand. “Tackling alcohol and drug abuse is key to building safer, stronger communities, and it’s a critical part of our efforts to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage,” Ms Macklin said. “BushMob runs a terrific service where young people in Alice Springs are able to receive round-the-clock care, as well as education and counselling to help them overcome alcohol, petrol-sniffing and substance abuse. “This expansion to a new and larger facility means BushMob can lift its capacity from five to 20 beds, and help more young people in Alice Springs take control of their lives.”
Will says that the highlight of his job is “seeing a young person happy and achieving small changes, and learning that they have choices to make about themselves and their situations.”