‘Society has the knowledge to facilitate the healing of Indigenous peoples. This knowledge comes from Indigenous people who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process, successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing. It comes from the Indigenous holistic view of wellbeing that has existed for tens of thousands of years and is far richer than the western view of ‘mental health’.
Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by systems of care. As a result, society is helping far too few Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing. This is a human rights issue that needs addressing urgently.
We have developed our unique initiative Sharing Culture to help Indigenous peoples heal, and to help create empathic and supportive environments in which healing can flourish.
Our approach is based on key principles known to underlie healing of trauma, mental health problems and addiction: Empowerment and Connection. We empower people by giving them hope, understanding, and a sense of belonging. We connect Indigenous people to healing resources, and to their culture, land, spirituality, community and history.
Since the environment in which a person exists impacts on their health and wellbeing, we must all be involved in the healing process. Non-Indigenous peoples must become more aware and understanding of Indigenous peoples and their culture, and of the factors that influence Indigenous wellbeing. To facilitate this process, and enable Indigenous peoples to empower each other, Sharing Culture aims to create a powerful Indigenous voice.
The first stage of our development, the Sharing Culture website and network, attracted a very positive response from our audience. We recruited an international network of 35 Advisors, most of whom are world leading experts in their field. Moreover, Indigenous people who we hold in high regard have asked us to collaborate.
In the next stage of Sharing Culture development, we will build education and storytelling resources (e.g. website, iBooks, documentary film) that use lived experience to inspire and create a better understanding of healing.
For this purpose, I will visit selected Indigenous communities and individuals with three primary aims in mind: (1) to learn from Indigenous peoples (many of whom have great knowledge about healing), (2) to empower Indigenous communities to heal and develop resilience to adversity, (3) to connect Indigenous communities and peoples around the world with each other.
The first collaborative project, Voice of the Rivers, will involve me visiting Indigenous communities on the Daly, Katherine and Waterhouse Rivers in the Northern Territory. I will have discussions with Indigenous Elders (e.g. Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, Mel Sandy and Tom E Lewis) and other community members over a period of years as their communities undertake healing journeys from the adversities they have faced over the past decades.
My visits will allow me to learn about Indigenous healing practices, and see how these Indigenous communities have overcome the adversities they have faced. I will learn what life is like in the Rivers’ communities, hear about local peoples’ strengths and assets, and understand the barriers to healing they face.
I will also learn about the Indigenous concept of dadirri, and work with Aunty Miriam Rose and Sharing Culture Advisor Pip Gordon to explore the concepts of Connection and Belonging, and facilitate the connection of local young people to the ‘outside’ world to help their living in two cultures. I will explore the use of the arts (e.g. music, dance, painting) in facilitating healing.
Voices of the Rivers will reach a worldwide audience. It will empower other Indigenous communities, and help Indigenous peoples create a powerful voice and narrative that challenges the disempowering discourse and paternalistic actions of governments.
“Dadirri – ‘deep inner listening, quite still awareness’. Aunty Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann has been instrumental in gifting these words and the knowledge that they hold to generations of people.
As an Aboriginal women myself, these words have always deeply resonated with me. In my language group the equivalent world is ‘gan’na’ which means to hear, listen, feel, think, understand. It is time to listen, to feel, to think and to understand where we have been and where we are going. It is time our stories are told as we move forward and create a cycle of intergenerational healing.
Voices of the Rivers: Empowering and Connecting Indigenous Communities is an initiative that truly honours this process. I cannot stress enough how important it is to support this project. It is time to truly build authentic relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples around the world - I believe this project is a conduit to achieve that aim.” Dr Carlie Atkinson