Structuring safety is about the intention of not traumatising those we are working with. It’s also about being witnesses to their stories and accounts, while balancing the differences inherent in the interplay of power and privilege.
Structuring safety is particularly important when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who continue to experience the violence and oppression from colonised systems.
Cathy Richardson and Vikki Reynolds’ article about structuring safety in their work with Canadian Indigenous survivors of residential schools highlights that ‘structuring safety’ is not preparation for the work, but that it is actually the work.
‘We contest the binary of “safe or unsafe” when we co-create relationships of enough-safety with our clients. I work to create some-safety, enough-safety, or a safe-r conversation and relationship. All conversations across difference are risky because power is always at play. Doing harm by replicating oppression is always a potential risk. This is true despite our commitments to social justice and our collective ethics.’
Reynolds, V (2014)
Structuring safety first requires you to be an ally
Work on understanding the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and actively work to change this societal context. Be aware of how the space you will be in and your appearance (clothing, posture, attitude, tone of voice) can foster safety.
When engaging with families refer to protocols for yarning within the Safe Care and Connection practice kit.
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