The Balit Durn Durn


The Balit Durn Durn Centre coordinates a collaborative approach to the expansion of Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) services in Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and mainstream mental health services.

We want to ensure there is ‘no wrong door’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking a culturally safe SEWB service – that culturally safe SEWB services are easily accessed at both mainstream health providers and local ACCOs.

The Centre draws on clinical, research and Community expertise to coordinate best practice across services through:

  • Clinical, organisational and cultural governance planning and development
  • Workforce development: training, professional development activities and supporting the proposed scholarship program
  • Guidance and practical supports to build clinical effectiveness in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment
  • Developing and disseminating research and evidence for social and emotional wellbeing models and for convening associated regional and local communities of practice.

For more information on the Centre of Excellence and the work we do, please contact us.

The official launch!

The Balit Durn Durn Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing was launched in May 2022.

An initiative designed to foster innovation and improvement in social and emotional wellbeing practice, policy and research.

Understanding Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing

The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association describes social and emotional wellbeing as a holistic view of health that “incorporates the physical, social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of individuals and their communities” across the whole of life course.

The Aboriginal concept of ‘healing’ is an inclusive term that enables mental health to be recognised as part of a holistic and interconnected Aboriginal view of health. The concept of healing embraces social, emotional, physical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of health and wellbeing.

Balit Durn Durn Social & Emotional Wellbeing Wheel

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Wheel represents holistic healing and includes protective factors that support good mental health for Aboriginal Communities.

These factors include connection to:
  • Body
  • Mind and emotions
  • Family and kinship
  • Community
  • Culture
  • Country
  • Spirit, spirituality, and ancestors.

The outer wheel speaks to how these factors interact with social, historical, and political determinants of health and wellbeing, and the importance of each element in keeping well.

These determinants of health and wellbeing are defined as:

  • Social determinants – the impact of poverty, unemployment, housing, educational attainment, and racial discrimination.
  • Historical determinants – the historical context of colonisation and its legacy. The impact of past government policies and the extent of historical oppression and cultural displacement.
  • Political determinants – the unresolved issues of land, control of resources, cultural security, and the rights of self-determination and sovereignty.

Download the Balit Durn Durn Social & Emotional Wellbring Wheel

The SEWB wheel illustrates an interconnected relationship between the SEWB of individuals, families and Communities that is shaped by connection to the body, mind and emotions, family kinship, community, culture, land and spirituality. The disruption of these connections can result in poorer SEWB in Aboriginal people and their Communities .The SEWB wheel instils a strength-based approach to mental health care and clinical practice through the restoration and strengthening of these connections for an individual’s healing journey.

A SEWB strength-based approach considers the social determinants of an Aboriginal person’s wellbeing. A SEWB support team consists of Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) support, Bringing Them Home workers, Link-up workers, Stolen Generation workers and Koori Mental Health Liaison Officers that provide wrap around support to an individuals healing journey.

About Balit Durn Durn: VACCHO’s report to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Balit Durn Durn comes from the Wurundjeri / Woiwurrung language and means Strong Brain, Mind, Intellect and Sense of Self. Permission to use Balit Durn Durn was provided by Wurunjderi Traditional Owners.

The Mental Health Royal Commission (the Commission) was a ground-breaking opportunity for people with lived mental health experience, carers, families and the mental health workforce to contribute to improving the current mental health system and creating a system that appropriately supports all people.

The Commission received both written and oral feedback from individuals and organisations that informed the Mental Health Royal Commission Final Report. At the centre of the work undertaken by the Commission was a desire to challenge the stigma and discrimination that often exists in the mental health system, and to outline and understand gaps in the service system that can be addressed and improved.

Balit Durn Durn was developed by VACCHO to support the Commission’s Final Report, which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament in 2021.


Balit Durn Durn builds on years of advocacy from Aboriginal organisations, leaders and those delivering front line services to Aboriginal people across Victoria. It relies on hearings and submissions completed by Aboriginal leaders and experts in social and emotional wellbeing, conducted by the Commission in April and May 2019. This includes the culmination of the voices of Aboriginal people, Aboriginal Community Control Organisations and other peak bodies who made submissions, and the advice provided by Aboriginal experts during the Commission’s public hearing on 16 July 2019 at the Aboriginal Advancement League in Thornbury, Victoria.

This Report also builds on the Commission’s Interim Report which contains several priority recommendations that address immediate needs and lay the foundations for a new approach to mental health following changes to the current mental health system.

Following the publication of the Interim Report, VACCHO engaged in Community consultations to further understand the impact of the mental health system on Aboriginal Communities, workers, carers, families, and services. Almost 100 people responded to an online survey and 20 others participated in a series of face-to-face interviews where they shared their personal and professional experiences.

Balit Durn Durn aims to provide an overview of Aboriginal Communities’ experience with the current mental health system and offers innovative Aboriginal-led solutions that will see the Final Report deliver transformative outcomes.

Download the full report here [PDF, 1.1MB]

Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarship Program

We are creating opportunities for professional growth and development through our Aboriginal SEWB Scholarship Program to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people obtain recognised qualifications from approved public tertiary providers.

The Balit Durn Durn Centre and VACCHO’s Strategic Plan

The Centre will help deliver on VACCHO’s Strategic Plan On Solid Ground to deliver transformative health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities in Victoria.


Guiding Principles of On Solid Ground –

Culture and Kinship

The Centre of Excellence purpose is to collaborate, empower and foster partnerships with mainstream and ACCO health services to deliver culturally safe SEWB services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, drawing on the strengths of Culture and kinship.

Our Choice. Our Way

The Centre of Excellence will instill a self-determined approach to SEWB service delivery, create pathways for Aboriginal SEWB workforce entry and development and build the capacity of mental health services to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their Communities have choice when it comes to culturally safe SEWB services

Knowledge & Innovation

The Centre of Excellence is built on the foundations of Balit Durn Durn that aims to develop best practice models of care in SEWB that is evidence and strength-based to address the SEWB needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their Communities. The Centre will foster collaborative knowledge sharing practices with Community, clinicians, sector representatives and research experts.


Additional useful links and resources relating to Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing.


Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit)— the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework (2020)


Enquiries to the Balit Durn Durn Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing can be made by submitting the form below.

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