Posted on 22 June, 2017

‘Smoke Free Spaces’ Project Launches in Ramingining

‘Smoke Free Spaces’ Project Launches in Ramingining

Photo: Senior Ramingining man Guthaykuthay holds up a type of leaf used by Yolŋu in past times as a substitute for ŋarali’, due to the cessation of trade with the Macassans.

ARDS’ Top End Smoke Free Spaces health promotion campaign has launched in the first of three communities.

The project aims to assist households in three Northern Territory Indigenous communities to reduce the impact of smoking through creating smokefree spaces. We launched it in January in Ramingining, northeast Arnhem Land, after receiving approval from senior Yolŋu clan leaders.

Since then, we have visited over 60 houses. Yolŋu and Balanda (non-Indigenous) facilitators have been sitting down with householders, and engaging in dialogues about smoke and smoking.

‘Smoke Free Spaces’ Project Launches in Ramingining

Photo: Two members of our Ramingining team, Howard Amery and Sylvia Many’tjurrpuy, with ARDS Board member Matthew Dhulumburrk.

We are learning about how householders think about smoke and ŋarali’ (tobacco) according to Yolŋu law and history. At the same time, facilitators are providing education about Western understandings about smoking and its impact on our bodies. We also talk about Balandalaw for tobacco, including smoke free spaces.

We have spoken with numerous families who have already created a smoke-free rule in their homes. For some, this rule is strongly enforced, and in others it is weaker.

For other houses, the deeper story about smoking is new to them. For houses with weak or no rules about smoking inside, we aim to validate the responsibility of the householder, and spark their thinking about making a household rule about smoking.

To householders who want to make a smoking rule in their home, we offer them signs they can post on their doors, which say Barrku Buny’tjurr – ‘Smoke away, smoke at a distance’. There is strong interest in these signs. Numerous householders are showing an interest in creating a new smoking rule, or strengthening an existing weak rule, having heard the deeper story about tobacco.

‘Smoke Free Spaces’ Project Launches in Ramingining

Ramingining man Trevor Djarrgaykay with a Barrku Buny’tjurr sign, to reinforce his ‘no smoking inside’ rule.

In August, we hope to take our ongoing learnings from Ramingining, and begin a new series of interactions with householders in a second Arnhem Land community.

This project is also fostering dialogue among other organisations. In March, ARDS facilitated a workshop to bring together other practitioners working in tobacco harm reduction in remote Aboriginal communities, including the Department of Health, NT Heart Foundation, Miwatj Health, James Cook University, and ALPA. We look forward to building on these conversations as the project continues.

The Top-End Smoke Free Spaces project is funded through a Federal Department of Health ‘Tackling Indigenous Smoking’ Innovation Grant, and is a collaboration between ARDS, ALPA and James Cook University.

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