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Harnessing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as a protection and strength

Strengths

The strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices in family life and child rearing include:

A collective community focus—The concept of ‘one community, many eyes’ helps children to build trust and confidence in themselves and in others, access support when they face challenges, and be safe.

Autonomous play—Having the freedom to explore the world can empower children to build independence, learn responsibility, make sound decisions.

Respect for the elderly—Elderly family and community members help children to learn their responsibilities, understand who they are and where they come from, and keep the spirit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture alive.

Spirituality—Helps children to cope with life by connecting with others, instilling positive values, such as caring and sharing, improving physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and providing opportunities to heal from trauma.

Source: CFCA, Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing infographic

Note

Healing gives us back to ourselves. Not to hide or fight anymore. But to sit still, calm our minds, listen to the universe and allow our spirits to dance on the wind … [and] drift into our dreamtime. Healing ultimately gives us back to our country. To stand once again in our rightful place, eternal and generational. Healing is not just about recovering what has been lost or repairing what has been broken. It is about embracing our life force to create a new and vibrant fabric that keeps us grounded and connected.

Associate Professor Helen Milroy, Aboriginal Child Psychiatrist and Australia’s first Aboriginal doctor (MJA, Volume 190 Number 10, 18 May 2009)

Professor Chris Sarra talks about changing the low expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

TEDx Brisbane: All you need is... TO DREAM

Embracing the Aboriginal inner spirit model for healing

There is a word in many different language groups that describes inner spirit and many Aboriginal people share this belief.

Our Inner Spirit is the centre of our being and emotions.

When our spirit feels strong our mind feels strong.

When our spirit feels tangled our mind feels tangled.

Strong Inner Spirit is what keeps people healthy and keeps them connected together.

Strong Inner Spirit keeps our family strong, our community strong and our country alive. 

(From Aboriginal Inner spirit model)

Some healing ways to build strong spirit and identity may include:

  • ceremonies
  • men and women’s business and healing circles
  • stories, song, art and dance
  • going back to country and taking on responsibilities handed down for care and protection

Songlines: Aboriginal Art and Storytelling explains more about this way of Aboriginal healing

Being culturally responsive

You do not need to be an expert in culture. You do need to understand that:

  • AOD treatment alone will not meet the spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing needs, unless it is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific AOD treatment service that incorporates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of healing.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men have cultural ways of healing that can support their AOD treatment.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women talk about women’s business with women, not men.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men talk about men’s business with men, not women.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities are the experts in what they need and want. Be guided by them.

You need to take action by:

  • inviting a conversation about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing ways when developing case plans
  • consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing services to learn more about how you can support men, women, young people and children in healing
  • consulting with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healers in your district or in other areas who you may be able to talk with
  • helping parents, young people and children to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healers, healing places and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who can guide them, if this is what they want
  • learning about the traditional sites of healing in your area and how men and women connect with their land and country differently.

Note

This movie explores the chasm between an Indigenous man’s western upbringing and his traditional culture. As he goes on a series of journeys to his family’s country, he grows from rebellious young man to become a leader.

Set against the backdrop of the long fight to reclaim their traditional lands, Putuparri and the Rainmaker is a story of love, hope and the survival of Aboriginal law and culture against all odds.

The film spans 20 transformative years in Putuparri's life as he navigates the deep chasm between his western upbringing and his traditional culture. He and Spider go on a series of epic journeys to their family’s country. Each trip marks a different stage in his passage from rebellious young man to inspirational leader.

Note

Our stories since colonisation have been dangerous and subversive remembrances. Even remembering our law, our dreaming stories, was a subversive practice, let alone our tales of massacres, resistance, dispossession, living on the mission and the ‘welfare’ coming to take away our children. Unlike Hollywood, we tell stories to survive, not just to entertain or sell products. We have lost some of our stories because of the brutality of colonisation but we are finding them again and learning new stories, modern stories of surviving the policies of assimilation and establishing our own organisations in law, health, education, child care and child and family services.

SNAICC (2010)

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