Inspiration from NAIDOC week

5 July 2023

In this NAIDOC Week I am taking inspiration from Indigenous Healers and their Healing Practices by unpacking some of the key features from the social and emotional wellbeing practices of First Nations people. Some of these features are familiar to me through a white lens. Others are not. Either way, I am aware that my lens is likely to miss important elements. However, being aware of the need to clarify these may help me to best support First Nations clients.

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This conception of self is grounded within a collectivist perspective that views the self as inseparable from, and embedded within, family and community.

Following on from my recent blog around social responsibility and complacency in National Reconciliation Week, I am continuing to learn and take action to heal the devastation that has been perpetrated against First Nations Peoples in this country for far too long.

What is NAIDOC Week?

As shared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Islander Day and Observance Committee, and "celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples".

The theme for this year is 'For Our Elders', as explained on the NAIDOC website:

"Across every generation, our Elders have played, and continue to play, an important role and hold a prominent place in our communities and families.

They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones.

Our loved ones who pick us up in our low moments and celebrate us in our high ones. Who cook us a feed to comfort us and pull us into line, when we need them too.

They guide our generations and pave the way for us to take the paths we can take today. Guidance, not only through generations of advocacy and activism, but in everyday life and how to place ourselves in the world."

For the rest of the statement about this theme, please see here.

As a therapist, I'd like to pay my respects to Elders by exploring some Indigenous Healing Practices.

I am aware that it is important to seek permission and undertake appropriate training to use these practices.

My intention here is to share information that is publicly available.

Honouring Indigenous Healing Practices and healers

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), Australia's peak body for psychotherapy and counselling, have recently established a College of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices, to acknowledge and support the development of Indigenous Healing Practices in this country:

"PACFA and CATSIHP acknowledge the ancient, emerging and contemporary wisdom and research into Indigenous Healing Practice and the research, reports and government recommendations for the promotion of Indigenous-led healing practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Australian communities as a whole."

As outlined in CATSIHP's Indigenous Healing Practice Training Standards (2021):

'CATSIHP has identified 8 key features of Indigenous Healing Practice (Fig. 1) which are foundational to the formation of PACFA registered Indigenous Healing Practitioners and PACFA accredited Indigenous Healing Practice Training programs'.

Please see these key features depicted below:

Image source: The Indigenous Healing Practice Training Standards (2021)

Some of these features are familiar to me through a white person's lens.

Others are not.

Either way, I am aware that my lens is likely to miss important elements. However, being aware of the need to clarify these may help me to best support Fist Nations clients.

I was lucky enough to hear Ash Dargan, a Larrakia didgeridoo player and educator with a Masters of Indigenous Studies, present a keynote at the Music and Imagery Association of Australia's recent national conference on Indigenous healing processes using music and storytelling to heal transgenerational trauma.

Ash emphasised the importance of cultural awareness and cultural safety.

Amongst other things, Ash shared a version of the approach to social and emotional wellbeing from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ perspective, as seen in the image below (taken from Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice Gee, Dudgeon, Schultz, Hart & Kelly, 2013).

Taken from Gee, Dudgeon, Schultz, Hart and Kelly, 2013 • Artist: Tristan Schultz, RelativeCreative

Whilst I do not have experience of these cultural practices, they resonate strongly with my values of:

  • connection to self
  • connection to feelings and body
  • connection to community
  • connection to place

As a Registered Music Therapist and Registered Guided Imagery and Music Therapist, the practice of dadirri has always intrigued me.

I'm going to leave you with this reflection from Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, 2021 Senior Australian of the year, 'is an Aboriginal Elder, Artist and Educator who is dedicated to creating bright and fulfilling futures for Aboriginal children and youth'.

DADIRRI (Official Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Video)

Header image: ‘The 2023 National NAIDOC Week Poster incorporating the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag (licensed by the Torres Strait Island Council).’