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Issue #1653      August 27, 2014

Services hit by Budget cuts

Federal Budget cuts continue to bite hard on NSW Indigenous services, with the imminent closure of a South Coast healthy lifestyle program the latest in a string of reports of services struggling to survive.

Nowra-based Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Faye Worner says the loss of its Dead or Deadly Health and Wellbeing Program will leave a “massive hole” in the community.

She said Dead or Deadly was one of Waminda’s most successful programs and its closure would affect many Aboriginal families.

“It will devastate the women who are still on their journey towards a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “It would be a tragedy to lose such a great program that has helped and is continuing to help people better their quality of life and decrease the rates of chronic disease in the local area.”

Ms Worner said the program had been running for four years and had helped many Aboriginal women lose weight and adopt healthier lifestyles. Most of the staff running the program were Aboriginal women, and up to 12 staff members faced losing their jobs if funding wasn’t found.

Aboriginal health worker Hayley Longbottom, from the Jerrinja community, is one team member who may soon be out of work. Success stories from the program include its “million dollar baby” Lisa Bloxsome, who has gone on to be part of the Indigenous Marathon Program and trains with champion runner Robert de Castella.

Ms Bloxsome, who is preparing to compete in the Melbourne Marathon in October, also found work with the Dead or Deadly program and now helps other Indigenous women discover the benefits of healthier living.

Aboriginal health worker Angie Lonesborough lost 30 kilograms through Dead or Deadly. She now coordinates the program with Miss Longbottom, and has a scholarship to become a personal trainer.

But it’s not just the health aspects of the program that will be missed by the community. “We’re not only a health service,” Miss Longbottom said. “The women sit around and have yarn and support each other. Sometimes there might be a crisis happening and they can be supported by other women and the staff.”

Ms Worner said the program provided a soft entry into health and wellbeing, exercise and nutrition, but as the women joined its community they often sought extra support, extending to areas such as domestic violence and child protection.

Waminda is now lobbying local, state and federal politicians to try to secure the $250,000-$300,000 needed annually to run the service. If it is not found by September, Ms Worner said the program will no longer be able to run.

Koori Mail

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