Marrin Weejali grew from concern within the community about the increasing impact of alcohol and other drug misuse not only on the health of individuals within the Aboriginal community but upon the broader effects on families, and on the fabric of the community itself. Even before an operating centre was acquired, the organisation began providing counseling, advocacy and support to individuals and their families trying to deal with substance misuse, and by conducting weekly AOD awareness group meetings at the Holy Family Church, in Emerton. In 1996, the NSW Department of Housing recognised Marrin Weejali’s potential to assist in addressing social issues which impacted upon the delivery of public housing. The Department provided a three-bedroom house in Emerton as a centre for the service, from which Marrin Weejali operated until December 2009.
In 1999, Marrin Weejali obtained funding from the then Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services to enable the preparation of the Western Sydney Aboriginal Substance Misuse Regional Plan. This document was not solely a plan for Marrin Weejali; it described and quantified need for substance misuse services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in greater western Sydney as a whole. The Regional Plan called for an holistic response, and recommended specific, co-ordinated actions on the part of the Area Health Services, Aboriginal Community Controlled health service providers, Divisions of General Practice and a number of other agencies and NGOs. A number of the recommendations in the plan related to future development of programmes, services and facilities by Marrin Weejali.
Over the years which followed, Marrin Weejali has seized the initiative and driven implementation of a number of recommendations from the Regional Plan. Funding provided by OATSIH has improved staffing levels, and allowed us to construct a purpose-built centre, located at Blackett, in the heart of the area of the greatest concentration of Aboriginal population in Sydney. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at achieving a co-ordinated response to AoD issues within the Aboriginal community was negotiated with the then Area Health Services and Aboriginal Community Controlled health service providers.
Marrin Weejali is emerging from a phase of change, with our new centre operational since December 2009, additional staff employed delivering many new programmes, and new relationships forged both with our Local Health Districts and with many other agency, NGO and community-based service providers.