Evaluation of the Bringing them home and Indigenous mental health programs
5.4 A generally high level of client satisfaction and positive outcomes for clients of Link-Up and BTH services
There are no clear measures available of client satisfaction with the Link-Up and BTH services, for instance in terms of systematic data collected by the services. Nonetheless, the fourth major achievement of the Link-Up and BTH services is that the qualitative data collected for this evaluation indicate that there appears to be a generally high level of client satisfaction and positive outcomes for clients as a result of the services provided. Although as explained in chapter 3 a smaller number of clients were consulted than had been anticipated, and there therefore may be some possibility of bias in the sample who were consulted, this was the view expressed by the great majority of those from whom feedback was obtained. This was consistent with the views of most service staff, external stakeholders and Stolen Generations members.
In most instances Link-Up and BTH clients described staff as caring and professional, often ‘going well beyond the call of duty’, being flexible and available (often at short notice), being easy to talk to and supportive, having empathy with their issues or distress, and (particularly in the case of the BTH Counsellors) being able to assist clients with constructive suggestions or advice to improve their SEWB.
Our Link-Up Coordinator will get stories for people even when she is on leave and looking for funds to do things. Link-Up doesn’t push for our stories as we have been pushed all of our lives. The team in Link-Up is really good and very supportive.
A number of BTH and Link-Up clients described concrete and identifiable ways in which their SEWB had improved as a result of working with one or both of these services.
Link-Up saved my sanity.
[The BTH Counsellor] helped me a lot to go through what I was going through. … it’s a matter of trust.
Link-Up clients who had participated in reunions were generally very satisfied with them and very glad they had done so, even where the outcomes in relation to re-establishment of family contact may have been less than hoped for. Link-Up clients reported that participating in reunions had been important for their longer-term SEWB in terms of giving them a greater sense of identity, connection with their Aboriginal family and culture, and (in many but not all cases) establishing an ongoing relationship with their family members from whom they had been separated.
The Link-Up staff… were nothing short of amazing how they were able to bring it all together and I now have another side to my family. Yes, my eldest son, daughter, grandson, my brother have all been up to […], met family and yes I’m keeping in constant contact by phone and email. … So now I can say I no longer feel that I don’t belong anywhere, yes I do have a family who welcomed all of us with open arms, hearts and minds, I just can’t explain the emotions that kept running through me when I think of these people who had been searching a lot longer than me and to think once the file was found of Mum’s missing for years that was when it all came together and we were able to meet at long last.
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I met my dad through the BTH Counsellor who I approached directly. They then connected me to Link-Up. …My mum never told me I was Aboriginal. … Link-Up and the BTH Counsellor worked together to take me to meet my dad and my other family members over three days. It was fantastic but very emotional, sad, closure was deeply moving for me. I am still in contact but [it’s] hard to communicate as Dad is not very well.
(Link-Up and BTH client)
In the minority of instances where some dissatisfaction with Link-Up services was expressed by clients or other stakeholders, this was due to factors such as:
- Link-Up services not advising them that they could be referred to a BTH Counsellor (the inadequate links between the Link-Up and BTH programs are discussed in chapter 7).
- The long time that can be involved in the processes of locating records and/or organising reunions, which can extend to months or even years in some instances. This is in part linked to difficulties accessing records (discussed in chapter 9) and staffing issues including difficulties dealing with large caseloads (discussed in chapter 8).
- Feeling uncomfortable talking to a BTH Counsellor with particular demographic characteristics eg older Aboriginal people, particularly first generation Stolen Generations members, preferring not to talk to a BTH Counsellor much younger than themselves (this issue is discussed further in chapter 6), and male clients being reluctant to talk to female Counsellors (these issues are discussed further in chapter 8).
- Geographical distance from the service and/or an inconvenient location to be reached by public transport, where combined with unavailability of BTH Counsellors to meet with clients on an outreach basis.
- In a small number of instances, feeling that the BTH Counsellor did not have adequate skills.
- Community politics – community members perceiving that the auspice organisation favours certain families or clients over others in the community (this was mentioned in several locations, and was regarded as a significant barrier to access in one State in particular).