Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People

4323131_origSince moving to Australia, I’ve become increasingly saddened, concerned and angered by the way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are treated by many non-Indigenous people (including government). As a friend said the other day, it has to be seen to be believed.

The damage that has been done to Indigenous people here (and in other countries) as a result of colonisation is huge and it continues today. It is a great demonstration of the resilience of Indigenous people that they have survived.

I’ve decided to devote most of my time from now on to working with Indigenous people. I’ll be running this website and working on recovery-related projects.

I’ve challenged our addiction and mental heath systems of care over the past 15 years for a variety of their shortcomings, not least their focus on the medical model.

It is ironic that after all this time, I have found a philosophy of social and emotional wellbeing that is far richer and more advanced than the western concept of mental health. And doubly ironic that their approach is not well recognised and that the western approach of symptom management is causing more damage to Indigenous People.

Some of you will know that I have set up the Sharing Culture initiative with filmmaker and close friend, Michael Liu. After a year of development work, we’re now trying to raise funding to push our initiative forward. I’ve included a one pager below, just so that you can see what we want to do.

Why not check out the Sharing Culture website? I’ve also started to develop a new section on Indigenous Healing on this website. This section is very much a work in progress.

Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People

“Indigenous people possess a gift. For those people who want to discover it, this is a gift of healing, strong relationships and a deep connection to land, from a culture that has flourished over many thousands of years.” David Clark and Michael Liu

Government-based interventions are worsening the health and wellbeing of many Indigenous people. This fact is reflected by the current record levels of youth suicides, incarcerations and child removals.

Health, social care and criminal justice systems do not address key problems such as historical trauma, the trauma that has been passed down the generations as a result of colonisation, child removals and loss of culture.

Rather, they attempt to manage the symptoms through medication and incarceration. This approach has disempowered people and created feelings of hopelessness, victimisation and shame.

Our unique initiative Sharing Culture has been developed to help tackle historical trauma and facilitate the healing of Indigenous people. Sharing Culture is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness.

It is inspired by Indigenous people who have healed from historical trauma and its consequences. These people (the lived solution) have shown great strengths and resilience, as well as the necessary coping mechanisms, skills and knowledge, to rise above adversity. They are now role models and their Stories empower people by providing hope (that a better life is possible) and understanding (of how this can be achieved).

Sharing Culture is developing a multi-faceted education and advocacy resource on Indigenous Healing, which will include an inspiring collection of written and filmed Indigenous Healing Stories.

It will show how the healing of Indigenous people is facilitated by a multitude of different approaches involving cultural connection and connections to land; Stories and education; Indigenous arts; kinship networks and community assets, and spirituality.

We will empower Indigenous people and help connect them to their culture. We will show that the Indigenous holistic approach to health and wellbeing, which has been around for tens of thousands of years, is far richer than the western view of mental health. There is much that western culture can learn from Indigenous approaches to wellbeing.

Sharing Culture will highlight the multitude of ways that society can facilitate the healing of Indigenous people and spread these healing messages in innovative ways. It will create a ripple effect of hope and healing amongst Indigenous people.

Eventually, healing will become contagious.

Our Stories and educational content will be passed on to our audience’s children and grandchildren, ensuring that it facilitates Indigenous healing across generations. Trauma has crossed generations – healing can do the same.

David Clark is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology who has been committed to empowering people to heal – from addiction, mental health problems and trauma – and to creating healing environments and networks. Michael Liu is a filmmaker with considerable marketing and advertising experience, who (like David) is dedicated to social justice.