What is healing?
Why is it important?
Your role as a carer is pivotal in keeping cultural connection; this is vital in the healing process. The healing must focus on the removal of the child from their family and the wounds/hurt and pain they are feeling. The reason why the child has been removed is also an important factor to consider and the type of abuse or trauma they may have experienced.
The need for healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have been abused is very important, especially when you consider how “continuing experiences of trauma, such as violence and neglect actually affect the brain, the way the child thinks and processes information, language development, physical health, relationships, self-esteem and more.4”
The child which is now in your care and a part of your family, may have experienced different types of trauma, such as:
- Historical/cultural trauma – stolen generations, racism, poverty;
- Community trauma- substance abuse, violence, multiple deaths;
- Family trauma- intergenerational trauma, domestic violence, parenting skills impacted;
- Individual trauma- child abuse and neglect affecting development, attachment to others and culture.
of healing for children
When a child has a strong connection to family, culture and community, this provides children with a sense of identity. They feel connected to a larger process, which also supports a child’s sense of of belonging.
For Aboriginal people, culture, land and spirit are tied together so closely that you can’t have one without the other, but it’s not a complete story without family. Our families are essential to our children’s experience of, and connection with, their culture and therefore their healing.
Connections to culture:
It’s terrible to think that one of the most important things that helps strengthen and protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children-and contributes to their healing is under threat.5
Practical examples of programs and approaches to healing:
Sharing stories together
Yarning with elders and extended family.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people heal and measure their wellbeing in relation to their connection to others in their family and community.
There will be some things that may be difficult to discuss or articulate with a young child. For example, the reason(s) as to why they have been put into your care, etc. Therefore, some of the strategies/ways to encourage healing in appropriate ways are…
Activities in safe spaces
The activity itself can provide and become a safe space to explore new ideas and alternative strategies away from normal life, creating an opportunity to heal. Fun activities in a safe environment provide a space to listen, learn, gain support and reinforce strengths.6
Their home, taking them back to country/land.
Through art, drama, music, dance, drums
Making crafts helps to manage stress, emotions and learning new behaviours by being creative.
Resilience and coping are enhanced through humour, drama and theatre sports; and grief can be ‘explored creatively by drawing, writing…and telling personal stories.
Such as sandplay therapy, which is practiced in Aboriginal Family Counselling Service in Perth to help young children express their feelings in a non-verbal way.
Traditional Indigenous games introduced into schools and community have groups in Cherbourg and Stradbroke Island prove to be a successful community-based health promotion initiative.
Problem solving games such as an outdoor rope course build young people’s team building skills and give them an achievable challenge that builds self-esteem.
Participating in team sports, as opposed to individual exercise, is a valued activity by which Aboriginal people can represent and connect to their community. There are many sport carnivals held around Australia.
The following example largely encompasses a framework based on the ‘Take Two Program, Berry Street’
The ‘safety phase’ could be used within your household and with the child:
- Acknowledging past hurts. Caring for the child and thinking about what they are doing and how they are feeling.
- Creating fundamentally safe physical and emotional environments for young people and those that care and live with them.
- Maintain a connection to culture gives a sense of safety; Activities such as professional massage, dance and ceremony can help regulate emotions and the body. 7
Traditional ways of healing
Are rated the most effective by Aboriginal healing Foundation, in which traditional ways of healing involving Elders, ceremony, healing or talking circles and traditional medicine.
Refer to ‘Growth and Development’ section for list of services in each state/territory.
1SNAICC, Healing in Practice, (2013), p11
2Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, (2004),in
Healing in Practice, 2013, p12
3Sharron Williams in Healing in Practice, (2013), p7
4Coade, Downey and McGlung, 2008:9-12 in Healing in Practice, (2013), p11.
5SNAICC, Healing in Practice, (2013), p8-9
6SNAICC, Healing in Practice, (2013), p18
7SNAICC, Healing in Practice, (2013), p20