A mini-series about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men by documentary filmmaker Tom Hearn and featuring NITV's Ernie Dingo will be developed into a men's health initiative to be funded by the federal government.
At a launch on the Beedawong Meeting Place in Kings Park, Western Australia on Tuesday, federal Indigenous Health Minister, Ken Wyatt, said the government will contribute $1 million to the new program.
Mr Wyatt said he believes the initiative, which takes Indigenous men on Country to heal, has great potential. The funding will commission 20 campsites around the nation over the next two years.
Mr Hearn and Mr Dingo's program, BushTV, is the model of the new initiative, which will be based on the campsites in the series which were held in Central Australia, the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.
The funding from the federal government will also provide an independent overall assessment on the new initiative.
Announcing the initiative on Tuesday, Mr Wyatt, was joined by Mr Dingo, Dr Richard Walley OAM and Indigenous Elders.
Mr Wyatt said the program was about building resilience and is a step towards closing the gap.
"This is about building the resilience of our men and our young boys, the journey that they take through the program ... and working through with community at the local level, is one way that we can close the gap," Mr Wyatt said.
Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge is central to the 'Camping on Country' program, which focuses on alcohol and drug dependency, smoking, diet, exercise and mental health in a bid to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
Mr Dingo, a Yamitji man from the Murchison region of Western Australia, said in order to have strength in the community, the men must get healthy first so stories can continue to be told.
"It's the men that hold a lot of the stories. It's the men that have been put aside, and we need to reinstate their importance in the community and to strengthen their beliefs and strengthen them as individuals towards making their community a better place... but the first thing we gotta do is get healthy," he said.
"As leaders and Elders in our communities, we should listen to them. If we don't listen to them we will lose a lot of beautiful stuff that we don't read in books, cause they don't teach (it) anymore.
Mr Dingo has said the main purpose of the camps was to strengthen the spirituality of the men to enable them to be honest.
A male health worker will be located at each camp to help with those who may be going through substance withdraws, whilst also providing general health support.