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Issue Two:
Educaid Australia
Educaid Australia is a for-purpose, not-for-profit company based in Western Sydney and provides services within culturally diverse and vulnerable communities across NSW, nationally and abroad. Educaid Australia works in various settings including schools, communities, and workplaces, and is dedicated to “growing people, [and] impacting communities” through mental health and suicide prevention training and education sessions. Western Sydney specifically has a higher concentration of culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse people than other areas (Profile ID, 2021). Educaid Australia sees the challenges standing in the way of improving mental health literacy and emotional resilience, which are faced by the communities both in this region and across broader NSW. These challenges may include language barriers, cultural and religious stigmas, stress from migration and adaptation to a new culture, difficulty in understanding how to navigate the healthcare system, circulating misinformation, and the varying success of mainstream organisations in engaging with culturally diverse and vulnerable communities (Malviya 2023). Educaid Australia helps to mitigate these challenges through their partnerships, tailored services and resources, and culturally and religiously safe practices.
“People of diverse religious, ethnic or cultural groups have different experiences than the dominant culture as they relate to service access, quality of services and wellbeing outcomes. However, public health approaches that are generalist in nature may not reach or have little effect on changing behaviours or improving the lives of culturally diverse, religious minorities… Integrating respect for religiosity in health, wellbeing and social care is important for engaging individuals and increasing effectiveness of medical, health or social interventions.” – McLaren, Patmisari, Haisuzzaman, Jones & Taylor (2021)

Educaid Australia’s team comprises a Board of Directors who steer the direction of the organisation to grow impact, as well as a team of paid and voluntary staff driving the mission of the organisation. Their community-centred approach gives voice and control to the community, promotes equity, and improves social cohesiveness and overall community health (South, 2015). They have been able to roll out programs in schools through some partnerships, which has enabled them to build resilience and emotional literacy in young people. Specifically, they trained over 2000 young people and adults within school and community settings in Mental Health and Suicide First Aid. Additionally, partnering with GWS Giants and LivingWorks Australia for a community-based suicide prevention project has led to building suicide safety and prevention in culturally diverse and Islamic communities. But beyond this, they understand that no one person or organisation has all the answers. In the Western Sydney region, where there are higher levels of psychological distress than in other areas and insufficient systemic support and funding (Fernandez et al., 2017), it is especially encouraging to see this organisation working to create synergies through their partnerships and collaborations to maximise collective impact. 

Educaid Australia has an inherent understanding of the value that culture and faith have in the lives of the communities in which they operate. As a result, Educaid Australia aims to complement the dominant Western psychology-centric approach by integrating culture and faith in wellbeing. They utilise the cultural expertise of the staff to build trust and rapport with culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse populations. Their education and literacy-based programs take into consideration the cultural and religious nuances that may influence engagement and participation. They have used national and international platforms such as conferences and podcasts to amplify their work to global Islamic audiences. They also address the practical considerations such as translating materials into different languages and redeveloping resources for different cultural contexts. Highlighting the role of not just culture but also faith in wellbeing is one of Educaid Australia’s defining characteristics. 

Educaid Australia has also partnered with a number of other organisations across multiple different fields, such as IMB Bank, the GWS Giants, and headspace in South Western and Western Sydney. The work that Educaid Australia does exemplifies the power of collective action, cultural sensitivity, and a holistic view of wellbeing in fostering resilient and connected communities. By recentering wellbeing in different cultural contexts, and providing culturally and religiously safe spaces for communities to learn and be empowered, Educaid Australia is able to break down mental health stigma in culturally diverse and faith communities and bring together the individual and community to improve wellbeing.

Evidence in practice
A community-centred approach in mental health involves services being delivered in a community setting, or by paid and/or unpaid community workers. This can help to influence the factors contributing to improved mental health and wellbeing, such as social connectedness, access to safe and affordable housing, and power in local decision-making (Baskin C, Zijlstra G, McGrath M, et al., 2021).
Integrating culture and faith in wellbeing requires understanding and responding to the cultural characteristics of the communities in which the service is delivered (Hernandez, Nesman, Mowery, Acevedo-Polakovich, & Callejas, 2009), and acknowledging and honouring the important role that culture and faith have in some people’s wellbeing and recovery. In faith-based communities, it can be an important component in delivering holistic care, and is critical to ensure engagement, and the effectiveness of community health and wellbeing interventions. 

Baskin C, Zijlstra G, McGrath M, et al.  (2021). Community- centred interventions for improving   public mental health among adults from ethnic minority populations in the UK: a scoping review. BMJ Open. doi: 10.1136/ bmjopen-2020-041102

Fernandez, A., Gillespie, J., Smith-Merry, J., Feng, X., Astell-Burt, T., Maas, C. & Salvador-Carulla, L. (2017). Integrated mental health atlas of the Western Sydney Local Health District: gaps and recommendations. Australian Health Review, 41(1), pp.38-44. doi: 10.1071/AH15154

Hernandez, M., Nesman, T., Mowery, D., Acevedo-Polakovich, I.D., & Callejas, L.M. (2009). Cultural Competence: A Literature Review and Conceptual Model for Mental Health Services.   Psychiatrics Services, 60:8, pp. 1046-1050. Available from   https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/epdf/10.1176/ps.2009.60.8.1046

Malviya, S. (2023). The Need for Integration of Religion and Spirituality into the Mental Health Care of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations in Australia: A Rapid Review. Journal of Religion and Health, 62, pp. 2272–2296. Available from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-023-01761-3

McLaren, H., Patmisari, E., Haisuzzaman, M., Jones, M. & Taylor, R. (2021). Respect for Religiosity: Review of Faith Integration in Health and Wellbeing Interventions with Muslim Minorities. Religions 12: 692. Available from https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090692

Profile ID. (2021). Western Sydney (LGA) Birthplace. Available from https://profile.id.com.au/cws/birthplace

Profile ID. (2021). Western Sydney (LGA) Religion. Available from https://profile.id.com.au/cws/religion

South, J. (2015) A guide to community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing. Project Report. Public Health England/NHS England. Available from https://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/id/eprint/1229/11/A%20guide%20to%20community-centred%20approaches%20for%20health%20and%20wellbeing%20(full%20report).pdf


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