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The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation consultations begin

Posted on: 29 May, 2009
Issue: Vol 9 No 2, April 2009 - June 2009
Related to Social and emotional wellbeing Policies

The Healing Foundation Development Team has begun conducting community workshops across Australia to listen to ideas for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation. The establishment of the Healing Foundation was announced by the Australian Government in its 2009-10 Budget and funding of $26.6 million over four years was allocated.

The Development Team was established to work with Indigenous people to ensure broad ownership and support for the Foundation, establishment of which is partly in response to calls for action to address the intergenerational impacts of trauma and grief. Its establishment builds on the COAG commitments to ‘closing the gaps’ between Indigenous and other Australians.

The Team will work with the Government between May and July 2009 in undertaking consultations with key organisations and individuals and conduct community workshops across Australia. The information gathered will contribute to development of the role and structure of the Healing Foundation.

It is anticipated that the Foundation will support communities and individuals to address trauma, grief and healing needs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly the Stolen Generations and their families. It will seek to support holistic and innovative healing through funding support, community education and documenting what practices work. Evidence from Australia and internationally shows that healing is needed to overcome the trauma of removal, the impact of colonisation and associated intergenerational effects. Healing can result in positive changes in peoples’ lives if practices have strong roots in Indigenous traditions, values and culture, while also incorporating Western and mainstream practices.

A number of reports have highlighted grief and trauma issues for Indigenous people. These include the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report, which estimated that between one in ten and one in three Indigenous children had been removed from their families. The Western Australian Child Health Survey, 2005, confirmed the intergenerational effect of forcible removal for carers and children of carers who experienced higher risks of emotional and behavioural problems, and overuse of alcohol, and were more likely to be charged with an offence at some time in their lives. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation Development Team discussion paper highlights other policies and practices, such as forced dislocation and formal interference in marriage, wages and citizenship.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation Development Team includes people with extensive expertise in Indigenous healing, knowledge of Stolen Generations’ issues and knowledge around establishing a Foundation. Members are:

  • Ms May O’Brien (WA), (Co-Chairperson) – May was taken to Mt Margaret Mission at the age of seven. She has overseen a number of important advances in Aboriginal education including becoming the first Aboriginal Superintendant in WA. This appointment was made soon after completing a Churchill Fellowship.
  • Mr Gregory Phillips (Qld/Vic) (Co-Chairperson) – Gregory is a community advocate and researcher. He has worked in Aboriginal healing education, land councils, youth leadership and health, and has spent many years developing community healing initiatives.
  • Ms Barbra Asplet (NSW) – Barbra has been actively engaged in overcoming trauma for many years by providing effective healing services.
  • Mr Bradley Brown (Vic) – Bradley has been employed in Aboriginal health for 22 years and has specific experience in delivering services for Stolen Generation members.
  • Mr Brian Butler (SA) – Brian is currently the Aboriginal Advocate for South Australia in the Aged Rights Advocacy Service and the Aboriginal Elders Council of South Australia.
  • Mr David Cole (NT) – David is the Founder and Director of the Balunu Foundation in Darwin, which works with young at-risk Indigenous people, giving them a sense of purpose and pride.
  • Ms Debra Hocking (Tas) – Debra is a survivor of the Stolen Generations. She is a recipient of the United Nations award for the International Year of the Culture of Peace and has a Masters Degree in Indigenous Health.
  • Professor Helen Milroy (WA) – Helen is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region. She works as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of Western Australia.
  • Ms Noritta Morseu-Diop (Qld) – Noritta is a Torres Strait Islander social worker who has worked extensively in the areas of grief, loss and healing within the criminal justice system in the Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Workshops are open to all interested participants, for dates and locations see below at ‘How to have your say’. Written submissions are invited by 31 July 2009.

Adapted from information on the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website