• Coral Hennessy is continuing the legacy of her brother Cyril, co-founder of the Glen. (NITV )Source: NITV
After losing children to substance abuse, these Aboriginal Elders have helped secure funding to create better services for women suffering with addiction.
Shahni Wellington

The Point
9 Oct 2019 - 2:35 PM  UPDATED 9 Oct 2019 - 2:35 PM

A group of Aboriginal women are one step closer to the goal of a women’s specific rehab centre on the Central Coast after the federal government announced $9 million in funding.

The Glen rehab facility on the New South Wales Central Coast is currently a men-only program, helping men deal with issues with drug and alcohol use for more than 25 years.

Set up by Ngaimpe Aboriginal Corporation, the centre has adopted a holistic approach to rehabilitation, with a focus on integrating Indigenous culture and spirituality.

Now, the federal government has allocated $9 million dollars for a centre to help women suffering with addiction.

At the forefront of the campaign are five passionate Aboriginal female directors.

For Wiradjuri woman and director, Jan McKinnon, it was a devastating loss that brought the Glen into her life.

“It’ll be 24 years ago this Christmas that my son passed away from drugs, and so we didn’t even have the money to bury him,” Ms McKinnon said.

It was Vince Coyte, the co-founder of the Glen and father of now-CEO, Joe Coyte, who contacted Ms McKinnon to help pay for the funeral.

Sadly, her heartache wasn’t over.

“18 months after my son passed away, my daughter passed away from substance abuse – my youngest daughter,"  Ms McKinnon said.

“Vince came to the rescue again.”

She then became a board member with the Glen to advocate for the work they were doing with not only their clients, but their families and the community.

The Glen for Women will become New South Wales’ first Aboriginal Community controlled women’s rehabilitation centre.

While it’s still in the early stages of planning, the directors hope the centre will give women in need a chance at a new life.

“Well if I can save one family from going through the hurt and heartache - I’m happy,” Ms McKinnon said. 

Coral Hennessy is another elder leading the way for a women’s centre to be established, carrying on the legacy of her brother Cyril Hennessy, who co-founded the Glen.

“I used to say to Cyril, we need a place like this for the women.

“He used to say “I’ve got enough problems looking after this place without worrying about a women’s place” And I thought nah, it’ll happen – it’s gotta happen,” Ms Hennessy said.

Coral has spent 20 years trying to help her daughter break free from an alcohol addiction, with more loss driving her on this journey.

“I’ve lost three sons. That wasn’t all to do with alcohol but that played a bit of a part in it,” Ms Hennessy said.  

“Places like this, there should be more of them - instead of the jail system being used as a mental health place.”

While the location of the centre is yet to be determined, one proposal is to have the centre based on the Central Coast and to establish outreach centres in regional areas such as Nowra and Dubbo.

Ms Hennessy says the Glen for Women is only one piece of the puzzle.

“Not only just on the Coast, it has to happen all over to really be effective in helping people,” she said.

The Glen and the Glen for Women aims to break the cycle of drug users with little options for help.

The 2019 Australia Overdose Report says an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is more than three times as likely as their non-Aboriginal counterpart to die of unintentional drug overdose.

Barkindji man Glenn Collis found his way to the Glen through the prison system, and is now a mentor.

Mr Collis says addiction doesn’t discriminate.

“It doesn’t matter why you come here. We don’t care if you come from the prison, or you come here to save your family or you come here to save your relationship. It’s what you do when you get here," Mr Collis said.

"The Glen is about action."

A former boxing champion, Mr Collis has been clean and sober for ten years and agrees there needs to be a facility for women.

“When we fall down, we get propped back up and go to prison, but what happens when the woman falls down? She’s the backbone of the family,” Mr Collis said.

“The woman is the glue and the children will suffer.”

While funding has been secured, the process is still on-going to make the dream of a reality.

The Glen for Women directors continue to search for an appropriate location and operating model for the centre.

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