Objective: Uti kulintjaku means "to think and understand clearly." Led by senior Aboriginal women, the Uti Kulintjaku Project took an innovative approach to developing a process to strengthen shared understandings of mental health between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal health professionals with the long-term aims of increasing help-seeking, strengthening health services' cultural competency, and Aboriginal leadership.
Method: Developmental evaluation supported the Project's development and utilised data collected through ten 3- to 4-day workshops over 3 years, reflective practice, participant observation, focussed discussion groups with Aboriginal participants, and 21 semi-structured, in-depth key stakeholder interviews.
Results: A model, Uti Kulintjaku Iwara: the path to clear thinking, has been developed. This model facilitates clear thinking, enables safe ways to talk about difficult issues, fosters healing and empowerment, and promotes finding new ways to enhance mental health and wellbeing. A range of outcomes at a personal, group, and Project level has been achieved: capacity development of the team of senior Aboriginal women; increased bi-cultural understanding of mental health; and emphasis on the importance of culture in enhancing Aboriginal mental health and wellbeing. A multi-lingual compendium of words and phrases was created and innovative resources were produced. Partnerships with mental health services were strengthened.
Conclusions: The Project's model and the healing, empowerment and leadership outcomes for the Aboriginal participants are consistent with programs identified as most effective in enhancing the social and emotional wellbeing and "suicide proofing" of Aboriginal communities. The model developed has potential application to address other complex social and health issues in various contexts.