Mt Theo Program

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The Mt Theo Program is a successful youth diversion and development program run by the Warlpiri tribe in Central Australia with its home base in Yuendumu community.

The program was established in 1994 to address an epidemic of petrol sniffing at Yuendumu. Initially Warlpiri elders (with the key support of the community members and community organisations), took groups of young sniffers 160km to Mount Theo outstation where they were removed from the sniffing environment and taught traditional culture and skills such as hunting and gathering. Success consequently attracted government funding.

Development[edit]

The program developed into the Mt Theo / Yuendumu Substance Misuse Aboriginal Corporation. It had unprecedented and sustained success without overly relying on supply reduction approaches. It saw consistent community responses in taking sniffers out to Mt Theo for rehabilitation. Correspondingly in Yuendumu it developed a wide range of youth diversion activities as the first step in addressing the underlying demand issues. This dedicated, community originated and based approach saw it practically eradicate sniffing in the Warlpiri nation, and become a model for similar community driven organisations.

The focus of the program has broadened far beyond petrol sniffing to other substance misuse, 'at risk' behaviour or indeed any challenges faced by young Warlpiri people. The program runs an extensive range of activities for Warlpiri youth as well as after school care and night school. Access to meaningful and enjoyable activity diverts young people from destructive and antisocial behaviours.

The program has also sought to facilitate genuine development and leadership pathways for young people through its Jaru Pirrjirdi (Strong Voices) Project and WETT training project (in conjunction with PAW Media). The Program works across four Warlpiri communities - Yuendumu, Nyirrpi, Willowra and Lajamanu as well as the Mt Theo Outstation.

  • The Mt Theo - Yuendumu Substance Misuse Aboriginal Corporation changed its name to the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation in 2008 at a meeting of its committee, members and staff. Although it continues to be colloquially known as the 'Mt Theo Program', it was felt that the official name should be changed to more accurately reflect what the organisation currently does having now (essentially) won the war on petrol sniffing.
  • The Warra-Warra Kanyi Counselling Service was started in 2009 as a new initiative by WYDAC to provide specialised counselling services to young Warlpiri people, through a Warlpiri designed service.

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