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A unique Indigenous mindfulness app is helping Aboriginal communities tackle stress and maintain mental health.

The Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC) and Smiling Mind have developed a meditation program that incorporates Aboriginal language and culture.

“Research shows that mindfulness-based programs can significantly improve mental health, however, until now there haven’t been programs available that cater to the language and culture of Indigenous Australians,” NPYWC program manager Angela Lynch said.

The app-based program provides accessible and engaging tools for the 28 Aboriginal communities in the cross-border region of Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Smiling Mind, which produces not-for-profit web and app-based meditation programs, helped record the meditations, songs and breathing exercises in Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara languages.

The meditations are available for free on the Smiling Mind app for adults and children alike.

The aim of the app is to create a shared language for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous health workers that enables families and communities to make sense of how they feel, talk about their emotional state, and ask for help if they need it

“With the incidence of mental illness being disproportionately higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, there was a real need for the creation of a targeted program,” Ms Lynch said.

“We believe that greater mental health literacy will lead to increased help-seeking and better communication between Indigenous people and mental health workers.”

The program forms part of NPYWC’s Uti Kulintjaku project, meaning ‘to think and understand clearly’ which was established in 2012 to bring together ngangkari (traditional healers), senior Anangu women, interpreters and Western mental health practitioners committed to improving mental health.

“The program explores language and cultural concepts surrounding mental health and wellbeing as a means to addressing current health issues,” Ms Lynch said.

“A series of meditations have been scripted and recorded by senior Anangu women in the languages of Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara.”

NPY Women’s Council and Smiling Mind launched the meditations developed by the Uti Kulintjaku team last December. The mindful meditations, created and recorded by Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra speakers, have been piloted through schools in the APY Lands.

Smiling Mind CEO Dr Addie Wootten welcomed being involved in the development of programs in local languages, particularly during International Year of Indigenous Languages.

‘As a proud Australian organisation we are very excited to offer the world’s first Indigenous language mindfulness program to the world through our app. We think it has the power to change lives and we hope everyone can benefit.”