Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Parts 2 and 3)

42115582. Working towards solutions with Sharing Culture
We developed Sharing Culture as a way to help tackle historical trauma (and its consequences) and facilitate Indigenous healing.

Sharing Culture is a grassroots initiative based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We use a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and fosters positivity, acceptance and cultural pride.

We recognise that self-determinism is a central foundation of healing – solutions must come from Indigenous communities. At the same time, non-Indigenous people can contribute to this healing process in a variety of ways.

One major way that Sharing Culture will facilitate this healing process is to generate high quality educational content and Stories about Indigenous healing and the healing of trauma, and distribute it in the most effective manner to as wide an audience as possible.

A major foundation of our approach is based on highlighting and utilising the strengths and assets of Indigenous people and their culture.

Large numbers of Indigenous people live happy and successful lives, many of whom have healed from historical trauma and its consequences. They have shown great strengths and resilience, as well as the necessary coping mechanisms, skills and knowledge, to rise above adversity.

These people are the lived solution, the role models who Sharing Culture will work with to help inspire and teach other Indigenous people to heal. Their Healing Stories need to be told and widely distributed.

Sharing Culture also highlights the humane and holistic view of Indigenous health that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental.

This view, which has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, is far richer than the western view of mental health. The indigenous view focuses on ‘wellness’ rather than ‘illness’, ‘social and emotional wellbeing’ rather than ‘mental health’, ‘balance and harmony’ rather than ‘restoration of function only’, a ‘strengths’ approach rather than ‘reducing risks’, and a ‘collective’ rather than ‘individualistic’ approach.

Importantly, western-based scientific research is only just now recognising the key importance of factors like ‘relationships’, ‘self-determination’ and ‘Stories’ in underlying healing and recovery, factors that Indigenous cultures have known for many thousands of years.

Indigenous people have a diverse range of healing approaches that help heal historical trauma and its consequences. Some of these, such as the culturally-based Native American Wellbriety Movement, are impacting positively on many thousands of people’s lives.

However, far too few Indigenous healing initiatives receive adequate financial support from government. For example, the inspirational research of Professor Judy Atkinson in Australia has led to development of the highly effective We Al-li healing programme for helping people heal from historical trauma, which would have a major impact if it received adequate support.

Moreover, there is far too little communication across Indigenous communities about successful healing programs.

Sharing Culture will help change this situation, by developing an education resource and information network to ensure that communities across Australia (and further afield) learn from each other.

We will create an advocacy campaign that helps healing initiatives promote themselves and be better able to attract funding.

We will help western culture learn from Indigenous healing practices; people must be able to benefit from both western and Indigenous worldviews and practices.

3. The Sharing Culture approach
Sharing Culture uses key principles known to facilitate healing of trauma: empowerment (self-determinism) and the creation of connections.

People are empowered when they gain hope, understanding and a sense of belonging. They need the opportunity to make their own choices and be reminded of their strengths and assets.

In relation to the second principle, healing can take place only within the context of relationships (or community). Connecting Indigenous people to their culture, land, family, community, spirituality and history is key for healing to occur. Culture and land provide meaning and purpose to life, a strong positive identity, and a sense of wellbeing.

Empowerment is key because healing is something that comes from the person, not from a practitioner or treatment.

Moreover, we must empower Indigenous individuals, families and communities to heal themselves, as they cannot afford to wait for western care systems to change. Whilst such change is essential, it is likely to take time – and a strong advocacy campaign – time during which many more young Indigenous people may self-harm or kill themselves, or die in police custody or forced alcohol treatment.

Stories are a major foundation of the Sharing Culture approach. Role models and their personal narratives are of considerable value, since they provide hope that healing is possible and help people understand the nature of their problem and how it can be overcome.

People in the early stages of healing identify with and trust the experiences of someone who is further along in their journey. They are inspired by Healing Stories and use the ‘educational’ content they contain to help them deal with the problems and struggles they face in their day-to-day living. Who better to help us than someone who has ‘been there’?

We will tell the Stories of healing initiatives, as well as Cultural Stories that create pride and facilitate cultural connectedness. We will empower communities to develop their own Stories initiatives and encourage young Indigenous filmmakers to become involved with our initiative.

Education is another key element of the Sharing Culture approach. Education to facilitate Indigenous healing takes a wide variety of forms, including the spiritual aspects of health and wellbeing. Key themes to be developed for our resource are:

History: Viewing history from an Indigenous perspective, illustrating how conditions for social and psychological discontent have developed, helps community members understand why they have problems, and also shows them that they retain the necessary agency to change their lives for the better. It helps them deal with shame and blame, factors that impact negatively on wellbeing.

Culture: Indigenous people need to discover, understand and transmit Indigenous knowledge, values and ways of knowing in order to better connect to their culture and gain a strong cultural identity and a sense of belonging. (They must also understand selected Western ways as well).

Healing historical trauma: Indigenous people will be shown the strong evidence base for healing historical trauma at an individual, family and community level.

Healing addiction and mental health problems: Indigenous people can learn more about the symptoms of historical trauma (e.g. addiction to substances), how long-term recovery (healing) can be achieved, and what they might expect if they interact with society’s treatment and support systems.

Self-caring skills: Indigenous people will learn how to undertake a journey to wellness that involves self-care. They will have the opportunity to: learn social skills; how to deal with shame and negative thinking; learn about mindfulness, self-compassion and forgiveness; and develop resilience.

This educational resource will be utilised by Indigenous individuals, families and whole communities. It will contain videos of Indigenous people, and users of the website will be able to download these videos for themselves or other people. The Sharing Culture initiative will instill curiosity, creativity and cultural pride. It will empower people to help themselves and others.

We intend that our resources reach a wide-ranging audience. We both love innovative communication technologies and will develop new distribution methods.

The initiative will help increase the number of Indigenous people in the workforce, something that is essential to facilitate healing. Non-Indigenous people working with Indigenous people in health, social care and criminal justice settings need to know more about the healing of historical trauma to help them improve what they do.

We aim that our educational content and stories be shown in schools and universities, so that we help empower Aboriginal children at an early age, and ensure that the next generation of health, social care and criminal justice workers are better educated about trauma and healing.

Policy makers also need a better understanding to make the most appropriate decisions regarding policy and funding.

A better understanding of the problems and adversities faced by Indigenous people, as well as examples of the solutions that are occurring daily, will help reduce stigma and racism in wider society.

In order to help influence policy makers and facilitate wider societal change, we will encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to use our educational content for advocacy purposes and to join our Sharing Culture advocacy campaign.

Engaging Indigenous people in advocacy work enhances their self-esteem and sense of agency, which in turn facilitate healing.