Healing

Healing

The most recent posts in this section are at the top of this page. However, I developed this Healing section in order to take people on a journey into the fascinating field relating to the healing of intergenerational trauma. If you are new to this field, I suggest you start reading my first post, entitled Indigenous Trauma and Healing. You can then access the second post by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.... and so on. I will gradually add more and more posts over time. I hope you enjoy.

Marion’s Film Story, Part 2

I continue the series of films made by Mike Liu and I when we spent a day with Professor Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University, in York in September 2103. Marion is a Noongar from the Balardong language group. On this day, I learnt a good deal about Aboriginal culture, the experiences of an Aboriginal person in a white dominated society, and about the healing of trauma.

Marion talked about her strong sense of belonging she feels for her country, the Western Australian town of York and its surroundings, and the strong connection she has for the Native Reserve where she was brought up. She describes the racism she experienced as she grew up, and how she overcame her various adversities and challenges. She talks about the shocking events experienced by Aboriginal people which have impacted on health and wellbeing. Over time, Marion came to realise that she had to forgive non-Aboriginal people for the terrible things they had done in the past. Forgiveness is a key element of healing. You can find the first six films of this series here.

Read More ➔

Marion’s Film Story, Part 1

I first became interested in Aboriginal culture and in Indigenous healing after reading Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. I soon realised that western culture can learn a great deal from Indigenous culture and healing practices. I also learnt the key importance of connecting to culture for the healing of trauma and its consequences (e.g. mental health problems, addiction) amongst Indigenous peoples.

I was lucky enough to spend a good deal of time with Marion Kickett, who at the time was a lecturer at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, and through listening to her I learnt some important aspects of Indigenous culture and history. Marion is now a Professor and Director of the same Centre. She is a Noongar from the Balardong language group and spent the early years of her life on a reserve.

Read More ➔

Describing Healing: Professor Helen Milroy

3652715I came across a beautiful description of healing in the Forward of the fascinating book Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari. I quote this description here, although I have altered the paragraphs

“Healing is part of life and continues through death and into life again. It occurs throughout a person’s life journey as well as across generations. It can be experienced in many forms such as mending a wound or recovery from illness.

Mostly, however, it is about renewal. Leaving behind those things that have wounded us and caused us pain. Moving forward in our journey with hope for the future, with renewed energy, strength and enthusiasm for life.

Read More ➔

What is Healing to Me?: Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation

9157171_origHere are quotes from six different people participating in a national consultation process:

‘Initially, I think healing is about recognition. Recognition, both internally and externally, of self, of others and as a collective that there are ‘issues’. That there is pain. That there is anger and hurt and sadness that stems from past events. And that this anger, hurt and sadness is handed down, like an unwanted legacy, though the generations of our people. Once there is that recognition, collective recognition, of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and of all Australians, then begins the process of healing. Healing is a change. A change of attitude, a change of behaviours that have become entrenched.’

Read More ➔

What is Healing to Me?: Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada

Unknown-5Here is a summary of the findings from interviews of clients and staff of five healing programmes in Canada:

“… healing is an active, not passive, process: it is something you do, not something you think or that is done to you. In this sense, healing is work, it is ongoing and requires dedication. First and foremost, it requires commitment from the individual. No one can heal you or make you heal. Personal agency is stressed above all else.

The dominant metaphor in our research describes healing as a journey… The journey has a clear direction toward healing, yet it is a journey fraught with challenges. Falling off the path of healing is common, even expected by treatment staff. There is no shame to temporary setbacks, nor are these seen as failures; rather, the individual is welcomed back to continue on his or her journey when he or she feels ready…

Read More ➔

On the Nature of Healing: Judy Atkinson

As some of you know, I was inspired to work in the healing trauma field in large part by Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. Here is a short bio of Judy, taken from the We Al-li website:

‘Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage.

Her academic contributions to the understanding of trauma related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation and the healing/recovery of Indigenous peoples from such trauma has won her the Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she was awarded the Fritz Redlick Memorial Award for Human Rights and Mental Health from the Harvard University program for refugee trauma.

Read More ➔

Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery

511+Nl1uNdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_1. Principles of recovery (healing)
‘The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.

Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.

Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.

Read More ➔

Gabor Maté: Our Strange Indifference to Aboriginal Addiction

Unknown-8“Addicts are made, not born, and the most common precursors are early childhood privation, neglect and abuse. For several generations, Canada’s native children have been far more likely to suffer grinding penury, abuse and childhood substance addictions than non-natives.” Gabor Maté

Marlene, a 46-year old native woman, sat in my office last week, slumped on her chair, blinking away her tears. I’d just shared the news that her most recent blood test confirmed she had “seroconverted” to HIV, become infected with the AIDS virus.

Although an injection drug user, Marlene had always been careful to use clean needles. Her route of infection was sexual contact – with the resigned naiveté characteristic of so many aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she had trusted a man, himself a drug addict, who assured her that he was a safe partner.

Read More ➔

Addiction and Psychological Pain

During the many years I spent working in the addiction and mental health field, first as a neuroscientist and later helping empower people to facilitate their recovery (healing), I rarely heard the word ‘trauma’ being used.

Few practitioners I met mentioned that the person with the substance use problem might be self-medicating to ameliorate psychological pain. And yet in society, there were plenty of people visiting their doctor and obtaining a prescription of benzodiazepines such as librium, which are highly addictive substances, or antidepressants, which also produce problems, to help them deal with unpleasant psychological states of anxiety or depression.

Read More ➔

Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 2

“Culture has become life-giving medicine for our people, closing the wounds of the past and standing us strong to face the future.

Our Elders have been fundamental in this process. They are our wisdom keepers. They have seen the changes, so dramatically incurred in their lifetime. They are the vital bridge between the modern world and Aboriginal culture. They are the leaders of our communities, to whom we continue to rely on for guidance and counseling.

Read More ➔

Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 1

This ‘Culture is Life’ Campaign video highlights the problem of youth suicide amongst Indigenous people of Australia. Youth suicide is a problem amongst Indigenous peoples of other colonised nations.

Below, are some quotes from The Elders Report into Preventing Self-harm & Youth Suicide. This is a seminal report that brings together the voices of Elders and community leaders from across affected communities that wished to speak publicly about the causes and solutions needed to address this issue. These quotes reflect what the Elders see happening on the ground:

Read More ➔

Severe Dysfunction in Some Levels of Government

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and well-being, then we must understand the nature of the problems. Sadly, parts of government do not have that understanding, as illustrated by Professor Judy Atkinson. [View from 9’20” until 17’39”]

Read More ➔

Society is Failing to Tackle Historical Trauma

images-2‘The bureaucratic interventions of the state – the processes of law, social welfare, and health care – have not addressed the core issue of human traumatisation. These issues, in many cases, compounded the trauma by creating and increasing dependency on the state, which, while intensifying the feelings of victimisation, also enforces the beliefs of being powerless to change destructive circumstances.’ Judy Atkinson

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing, we have to tackle core underlying problems such as transgenerational trauma. However, our health care systems do not address transgenerational trauma—they just manage its symptoms, e.g. by prescribing medications to ‘treat’ emotional distress.

Read More ➔

Shocking History Impacts on the Health and Wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples

Professor Marion Kickett relates how she and the other Noongar children in York, Western Australia, were not allowed to swim in a particular area of the river. When she was fifteen, her father described how he and his friends were similarly told by their parents not to swim in that location. He also related the shocking story of The Sandy.

Read More ➔

Don Coyhis: What the Boarding Schools Did to Our Community

Don Coyhis, Founder of the Wellbriety Movement in America, describes Native Indian culture and communities before the issues that arose from intergenerational trauma. This trauma arose partly through the government-led introduction of boarding schools across America to to which Indian children were sent. [16’02”]

Read More ➔

Joe Solanto: Intergenerational Trauma Amongst First Nations People of Canada

In these two film clips, Dr. Joe Solanto discusses what trauma is and how the experiences of colonisation for First Nations peoples in Canada” qualify” as trauma. He describes how trauma is transmitted across generations. Crime and other social problems are understandable responses to trauma. [7’26” and 9’43”]

Read More ➔

Judy Atkinson: Reflecting on Historical Trauma and its Consequences

“I can talk for ever on this. I have been standing up and talking about this for 25 years. In Queensland, out at the Cape communities, in the Kimberleys, through the Territory, in South Australia, in New South Wales. Transgenerational trauma … it’s like nobody wants to hear.”

Read More ➔

‘Ruby’s Story’: Marion Kickett

It’s hard to believe that it is over seven years ago since I launched Sharing Culture, an educational initiative to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma. It is also over seven years since Michael Liu and I went out with Professor Marion Kickett to her home country in York to film her describing her life, country, culture, spirituality, family, education and resilience. Marion is a Noongar leader from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

Read More ➔

How Trauma Flows Through the Generations

‘Our first generations were killed and imprisoned, and females sexually misused. Our second generations turned to alcohol or drugs as their cultural and spiritual identity was damaged; in our third generations we had spousal assault and societal trauma.

In our fourth generations the abuse moves from spousal abuse to child abuse or both. In the fifth generations, the cycle repeats as trauma begats violence, begats trauma. And in our sixth generations the grown children of the conquerors begin to live in fear of the grown children of the conquered.’ Judy Atkinson

The title of Judy Atkinson’s book is particularly well-chosen—trauma leaves trails across the generations. In the quote above, Judy briefly summarises the violence that has been experienced by Aboriginal people, violence that has produced trauma which has become cumulative and more complex across generations. This trauma has impacted upon individuals, families and communities.

Read More ➔

‘My stolen childhood, and a life to rebuild’: Sheila Humphries

In my last Healing post, I wrote about ‘Bringing them home’, the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. This report tells the stories of many of the so-called Stolen Generations. I also provided a link to the compelling Bringing Them Home documentary.

Some time ago, I came across this deeply moving YouTube film of Shelia Humphries giving her TEDxPerth talk. Sheila is such a wonderful speaker and her story had me in tears. It beggars belief what was done to Aboriginal people in Australia in the past.

Read More ➔