Emerging Leader 2015 - 2016
AJ Williams-Tchen is a Wiradjuri / Wotjobulak man whose family are from Wellington / Dubboin in New South Wales and Dimboola / Horsham in Victoria. He is a mental health accredited social worker who for the past 20 years has been working at providing awareness of mental illness within the Aboriginal community and increasing mental health literacy among all Australians.
As a private social worker, he works with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients who have been either engaging in self injury or have had thoughts of suicide. His vision is that the community should not be afraid of recognising mental illness for what it is – common and with the appropriate skills, knowledge and support they will not be scared to help their loved one, family member or friend. He also envisions that Victorian Aboriginal people with mental illness won’t be scared to seek or ask for help for they will know that others understand their signs and symptoms, and are willing, able and competent in assisting.
AJ’s experience and involvement includes:
- Completion of a number of academic courses such as Nursing, Social Work, Youth Work, Career Education, Child Protection, Community Development, Community Services Coordination and Aboriginal Leadership.
- Delivery of over 600 cultural appreciation workshops to over 200 Victorian community, health and hospital settings, training non-Indigenous people about culture and working with individuals, families and communities.
- Development and implementation of the RMIT University ‘To-gip Gabaareng: Indigenous Employment and Career Development’ Framework’.
- 5 years management experience as the National Coordinator of the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid Program at Newcastle University, Orygen Youth Health and Mental Health First Aid Australia. This role involved training and supporting all AMHFA Instructors across Australia.
- Owner and Director of Girraway Ganyi Consultancy.
- 3 years experience as Senior Educator at VACCHO, training Aboriginal Health Workers in Certificate III & Certificate IV in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care.
- 2 years experience as an Aboriginal Health Worker at the Western Suburbs Indigenous Gathering Place.
- Career counselling to Aboriginal youth: he is a qualified Careers Counsellor.
- Delivery of professionally endorsed national Aboriginal Cultural Awareness & Cultural Competence programs.
- Assisting a number of mainstream organisations to develop employment strategies and cultural audit tools for the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people .
- As of January 2022, has delivered 650 MHFA courses, having trained nearly over 6000 people to become Mental Health First Aiders.
- Worked with more than 180 organisations across Australia to help them create culturally safe working environments.
- During the COVID-19 outbreak, AJ developed a YouTube channel to provide a culturally safe space for Aboriginal voices and allies to share stories.
AJ Williams-Tchen, launched his project “Mudigang dhulyarra – Elders speaking truthfully” short films at Nairm Marr Djambana in Frankston in March 2020. There were 60+ guests attending who were inspired by the Elders and AJ’s work.
To view the Mudigang dhulyarr short films:
AJ was an Individual Distinction Finalist in the Hesta Impact Awards for 2021. He was recognised for his work to support the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The area of impact was Diversity and Inclusion.
He was recognised for the 2021 Hart Awards in the Community Category – Girraway Ganyi Consultancy were Highly Commended for their YouTube Channel, and was also awarded the Australian Association of Social Workers Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year.