Dhulwa Mental Health Unit opens

People who have complex mental health needs will now have access to specialist treatment and rehabilitation services, following the opening of Dhulwa, the ACT’s new secure mental health facility.

Located in Symonston, Dhulwa will provide targeted individual care and treatment for people assessed as needing high levels of care and security.

The purpose-built facility will have 10 acute and 15 rehabilitation beds, and will be operated by specialist health and security staff, providing 24-hour clinical support and treatment in a safe environment.

Some of the services will include:

  • Specialist forensic psychiatric care, mental health care, alcohol and drug treatment, dental care and primary health care
  • Specialist behaviour management
  • Support for spiritual and cultural needs
  • Links to community services and groups to assist patients when they re-enter the community.

The facility is also equipped to assist people in developing new skills and interests that support their rehabilitation, including gardening, exercise, art, music, social, cultural and vocational activities.

Patients will be admitted in stages with ACT Health anticipating up to seven patients in the facility by the end of the year, with the aim for these patients to be transitioned into the rehabilitation wing throughout 2017, making way for new patients to be admitted into the acute wing.

In the past 12 months, 1,100 people were employed at Dhulwa during its construction phase, with 18 of those positions filled by Indigenous participants. The facility now employs over 60 staff to operate it.

The ACT Government worked with the United Ngunnawal Elders Council to recognise the culture of the traditional custodians of the land, the Ngunnawal people, and have incorporated Indigenous designs into the interior and landscaping features of the unit. The Council also gifted the name Dhulwa, which means ‘honeysuckle’, a plant with healing properties.

Nature has also inspired the colour scheme, the artworks and the names of the three wings in the building.

The wings of the building are:

  • Lomandra (green), commonly known as spiky-head mat-rush
  • Mallee (purple), a eucalypt that has several stems rather than a single trunk and
  • Cassia (yellow), which produces an abundance of yellow flowers in winter and spring.