The Value of Deep Listening: The Aboriginal Gift to the Nation—Judy Atkinson

I was inspired into the field of trauma healing by a remarkable Aboriginal woman, Judy Atkinson.

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage. She lives in Goolmangar, New South Wales. Judy is Patron/Elder Advisor for We Al-li Programs, a remarkable healing initiative. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for her services to the Indigenous community, to education and to mental health.

Judy’s book Trauma Trails Recreating Songlines: The transgenerational effects of trauma in Indigenous Australia quite simply changed my life. The book provides context to the life stories of people who have been moved from their country in a process that has created trauma trails, and the changes that can occur in the lives of people as they make connection with each other and share their stories of healing.

As a result of reading Judy’s book, I developed the educational initiative Sharing Culture, which focuses on the healing of historical trauma. Judy and her daughter Carlie (CEO of We Al-li Programs) agreed to become Advisors of Sharing Culture and wrote moving Testimonials.

I was lucky enough to meet Judy in Katherine when I was meeting new friends (including Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Senior Australian of the Year 2021) in the Northern Territory. Later, a group of us spent three days together at the Barunga Festival. I learnt so much in those days, and the time that I drove back to Darwin with Judy.

The film of Judy’s powerful TEDx talk in Sydney about intergenerational trauma and healing amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia is the first of many films I will be highlighting in this Healing section of the website. It seemed the most appropriate film to ‘lead the way’ in my efforts to help enhance understanding of the healing of intergenerational trauma.

Judy Atkinson is an expert in understanding inter-generational healing and recovery from trauma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At the core of this moving talk, she describes her approach to healing. It’s about listening. In order to heal, the stories behind the trauma must be heard. [Length 16’14”]

> 12 Principles of Indigenous Healing