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This is going to be deadly

It’s taken almost a year but I feel like I can finally breathe again!! That’s how long it’s taken to develop and produce a marketing campaign aimed at tackling mental health issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Okay, let me start from the beginning. Last August I successfully applied to be a part of headspace’s new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health campaign. This campaign is the first of its kind – gathering 12 young Indigenous people from different communities all around Australia to create a campaign which will connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, and encourage them to contact headspace and start working on the issues which are affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

For those of you who don’t know, headspace is a free, confidential mental health service for all people aged between 12-25 which offers counselling and GP services alongside a range of other educational and therapeutic services with the aim of tackling mental health issues at an earlier stage compared to similar organisations. The group’s first meeting was in October last year and was a jam-packed week of workshops, ice-breaker activities, cultural exercises and focus groups. We designed the key elements of the campaign during that week and given that I haven’t studied marketing before it was difficult for me personally to understand how a successful marketing campaign works and how best to portray the kind of message we wanted to send in a way that would be accessible to people from a diverse range of Indigenous communities whether they’re urban, rural or remote.

Over the next few months headspace and Gilimbaa, an Indigenous advertising agency, used our ideas to create this ground-breaking campaign. The entire group then met up again in June to finalise the merchandise and take a final look at all the different elements of the campaign.

Composition of the group

The YarnSafe youth advisory council is made up of a diverse group of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women from all over Australia – Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, Darwin and Broome. It was very important to headspace that this campaign connects with all Indigenous youth and as such they needed representatives from diverse communities and groups. As diverse as we are, we all have one thing in common: a passion for improving the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The YarnSafe group last year in Melbourne

Elements of our campaign

We designed every part of the campaign and there is a piece of every one of us in there, each with a unique story to tell. You might not be able to tell but the posters below are the result of many months of hard work with constant to-ing and fro-ing, teleconferencing and Facebooking back and forth to make sure that its exactly the way we want it to be.

Here are some examples of the campaign posters and overall concept our group developed which will be distributed all around Australia in various formats

YarnSafe and No Shame

People who are having a difficult time in their lives can experience a lot of shame talking about it with others. That’s where the idea of ‘YarnSafe’ came about. This is part of the main tagline you can see in the posters above: HEADSPACE – YOUR SPACE – YARN SAFE. This is the overarching concept of the campaign and the main message that we are trying to convey. To have a yarn is to have a chat or a talk and through the word ‘YarnSafe’ we hope to convey to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people that headspace is a safe place to talk about everything that’s going on in their lives, big or small either in person, online or over the phone. In this way we also hope to reduce the shame and stigma surrounding mental health which would allow them to feel more comfortable talking about problems and issues in their lives. This can be seen from the second tagline: NO SHAME IN TALKING IT OUT.

Life mess

Based on people in the group sharing their experiences with mental health and everything which affects it, we came to the realisation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a lot going on in their lives such as racism, the effects of the Stolen Generation, the pressure of being in a modern society with an ancient culture – the list goes on and on.

The ‘life mess’ part of the campaign stemmed from this idea. It is a collection of drawings, words, and phrases from the YarnSafe group which surround the people in all 27 campaign posters (3 of which are above). They symbolize all the mess and confusion which is going on in the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. For this element, everyone in the group wrote down and drew things that were going on in their lives or that they wanted to portray to others and this was translated into the ‘life mess’ which makes up the background of all campaign material and merchandise. I cringe a little when I see some of my writing because it feels like there’s a little part of me broadcast to the world but I know that it’s absolutely necessary.


Our songline

The song line runs through all printed campaign material (such as in the posters above) as well as all merchandise and is an important element in our final design. Loosely, it represents a journey and a story – in this case it’s supposed to represent the different states, territories and communities of Australia. It brings a cultural element to the campaign which is, of course, very important to all Indigenous people, both young and old alike.

An example of the merchandise we designed

The National Launch!

During the entire time we were developing the campaign we weren’t supposed to talk about the campaign for fear we’d give it away. This is why I was looking forward to the national launch which happened last week on the 11th of September. We had a short window of time to book everything and organise a kickass event to get the ball rolling. Then, a few weeks ago I got a message asking me to be the emcee for the launch! I agreed, not fully aware of the ramifications of speaking in front of 150 people whilst being filmed by the ABC, NITV and various other media outlets.

In the lead up there was lots of last minute scrambling – performers had to be booked, the venue confirmed (it was held at the National Melbourne Museum just outside the Bunjilaka exhibit), the invites designed, and all the other little details that make a huge difference on the day. Somehow though it all came together and I will always remember it as a great day spent with the best group of people: passionate, committed and leaders in their communities. I’m honoured to be one of them.

My next goal for this campaign is to ensure there’s an awesome local launch party at Mount Druitt in Sydney. It’s happening on the 9 October 2014 from 4:30pm – 7:30pm at Dawson Mall, Mount Druitt. If it’s anything like the national launch it’s going to be an amazing event and is a crucial part of the campaign I’m honoured to be a part of.

Some of the members of the YarnSafe Youth Advisory Council at the national launch in Melbourne. I’m the one on the far right.

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