Advocating for Indigenous Genius, Indigeneity and Wellbeing

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In Search Of Your Warrior Program was created to treat traumatic experiences, to heal the scars of abuse…

“In Search Of Your Warrior Program was created to treat traumatic experiences, to heal the scars of abuse, to get rid of the blinding rage and anger that inmates carry deep inside.”

The In Search of Your Warrior Program Identity at the heart of healing.

Enhanced capacities to provide effective interventions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) provides a continuum of culturally appropriate interventions that address the specific needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders in a way that contributes to safe and healthy communities. In particular, over the last decade, CSC has created eight healing lodges across Canada. Let’s Talk writers recently visited one of them, the Pê Sâkâstêw Healing Lodge in Alberta, where staff and offenders spoke of the benefits of the holistic approach and the rehabilitation programs, in particular the In Search of Your Warrior Program (ISYW).

In Search of Your Warrior Program

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Effective strategies to strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Effective strategies to strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Issues paper no. 12 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse
Pat Dudgeon, Roz Walker, Clair Scrine, Carrington Shepherd, Tom Calma and Ian Ring November 2014

What doesn’t work

  • Programs that fail to take account of Indigenous values, lifestyles, aspirations, family and differing needs and capacities of Indigenous people in diverse, complex economic and social circumstances.
  • Programs and services developed with inadequate timeframes, funding and program support that fail to address health in a holistic manner and focus on the individual without regard for the family and community context.
  • Provision or adaptation of mainstream programs by mainstream providers for Indigenous people without Indigenous community involvement or consultation.
  • Programs that are short-term, inflexible and designed and delivered without consultation, engagement and partnership with the community and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service sector.
  • Poor engagement with research evidence by the mainstream sector can lead to systemic racism, lack of cultural understanding and appropriateness, and a reliance on ‘one size fits all’ approaches.
  • Performance indicators and reporting requirements, developed in accordance with the values and principles of the mainstream mental health system, that do not always align with Indigenous cultural ways of working and views of social and emotional wellbeing.

What works

There is evidence that programs that are developed or implemented in accordance with the 9 guiding principles underpinning the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2004–2009 (SHRG 2004) are more likely to be effective and have positive outcomes than those that do not.

    • Programs that show promising results for Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing are those that encourage self-determination and community governance, reconnection and community life, and restoration and community resilience.
    • Important program features include:
      – a holistic approach
      – a focus on recovery and healing from stress and trauma
      – a means of empowering people to regain a sense of control and mastery over their lives
      – strategies that are Indigenous-led, family focused, culturally responsive, and context specific
      – interdisciplinary approaches that provide outreach services and transport
      – partnerships with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services sector and local communities.
    • There is evidence that both mainstream and Indigenous-specific programs and services that adhere to the Closing the Gap service-delivery principles of engagement, access, integration and accountability are more effective than those that do not.
    • ‘Participatory action research’ approaches provide an effective mechanism for involving Indigenous families and communities in developing, implementing and evaluating programs. Programs that adopt participatory action research tend to be more culturally responsive to local contexts and foster a culturally safe environment for program participants.
    • Engaging in cultural activities is an indicator of positive cultural identity that is associated with better mental health among Indigenous Australians.


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Australasian Evaluation Society Conference – Indigenous Speaker notes from Final Plenary Session

Australasian Evaluation Society Conference – Indigenous Speaker notes from Final Plenary Session


Introduce that a workshop was held on Monday for Indigenous people only

  • Mix of ages, gender, occupations, experience, nationalities, ethnicities, tribes and clans
  • Even with this diversity, some key common themes arose from our discussions, some of which have already been presented in Steve Larkin’s keynote and no doubt will also be picked up in Peter Mataira’s keynote

Theme 1

Power and control (and the relationship to ethics)

  • Who has the power?
  • Who controls the evaluation?
  • At what point are community brought into the evaluation?
  • And once brought in are they able to truly exercise any control over the information collected about them?

Theme 2 (Related to Theme 1)

Concerns around knowledge and expertise

Whose knowledge is privileged?
Who are the experts?
What happens when knowledge is shared in an evaluation process?
How much is ever returned to community to enable transformation and change?

Theme 3

Lots of discussion around the politics of evaluation and what happens when this is played out in the community.

Theme 4

And the purpose of evaluation:

  • Is evaluation activity simply to ensure continuation of programme funding?
  • Or are there bigger goals – wellbeing of a community for example”

Wrap-up and recommendations

  • In addition to these high level, systems level issues participants also offered a number of directions to AES, from things it could do immediately to support community and Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander evaluators
  • An indigenous ethical framework, code of conduct, guidelines for those working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities Greater emphasis on two-way learning
  • Greater contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, including NACCHO More visibility in the community More training, education and support – from formal courses/workshops through to mentoring (for Indigenous and non-Indigenous)
  • More Indigenous evaluators!
Dr Amohia Boulton
Associate Director
Whakauae Research Services Ltd

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Social work in Australia – If there is a discussion that is interested in outcomes and changes influenced by the Indigenous voice, you can count me in.

Attending the  Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development

At the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation, ‘A culturally responsive social work application of Indigenous and western ways of thinking and doing when responding to Indigenous sexual diversity in a young, Indigenous male client’, the fourth in a series of five presentations I am undertaking this year. These presentations have been thematically linked to the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous people who fit the description of gender variant and sexuality diverse, or the more common acronym of LGBQTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex). Two presentations have been on suicide prevention for this particular group and the third looking at the intersectionality of Indigeneity, gender variance and diverse sexualities and how to identify the social determinants of health affecting this group.

Attending the conference provided me the opportunity to use the decolonisation framework in Lorraine Muller’s text, ‘A theory for Indigenous Australian health and human service work’ (2014), in my presentation. The six stages of decolonisation in the book are: (1) Rediscovery and Recovery, (2) Mourning, (3) Healing/Forgiveness, (4) Dreaming, (5) Commitment and (6) Action. The six stages of decolonisation present a culturally responsive understanding that can be applied to social work; one that feels safe to use. This is important. It will be a framework that I will use time and time again as an Indigenous social work practitioner when working with an Indigenous partner. I use the term ‘partner’ in the context of a partnership with the individual, family or community we are working alongside. I am not a fan of the term ‘client’ as I believe it implies a power balance that is not conducive to an anti-oppressive space of interaction. Social work and social workers should not be interventionist(s) but rather sharers of practice, skills and theory through application not intervention.

My presentation was within the ‘Strengthening social and cultural wellbeing: Indigenous perspectives’ stream. It was great to catch up again with Michael Hart, who presented a paper titled ‘Indigenist social work: Culturally safe means to overcoming oppression and supporting wellbeing’, as well as network with the other local and international Indigenous delegates. When Marina Marcela Herrero, from Brazil, presented ‘Revitalization of Indigenous cultures at risk’ it was in her native tongue and although I couldn’t understand any of what was being said the accompanying video and the tones of her voice did assist in telling her story and her presentation. However, as I was sitting there I was reminded of how privileged I am being a speaker of English. It also reminded me that when it comes to Indigenous social work and our giving and receiving care styles we should not have to be in constant explanation mode. It should not always be up to us to explain, but that others need to make the effort to understand.

Prior to the conference I logged onto the live streaming of the IFSW General Meeting and was extremely happy to see ‘Indigenous knowledges’ included in the new definition of social work. I give full credit to the IFSW and the international organising committee of the SWESD gathering, as the live stream was a great idea. The inclusion of ‘Indigenous knowledges’ in the definition did set up quite a bit of expectation of Indigenous peoples’ inclusion throughout the three days. It is great when a local Indigenous person gives the Welcome to Country, I always  feel deeply about hearing another Indigenous person’s language. I would have liked to have seen Indigenous content in the opening plenary session itself. There is perhaps a bias that I carry in regards to Indigenous content because I do believe it to be an emerging area of social work theory and practice.

I also believe it to be very exciting, especially for Indigenous students of social work, that we now have two texts to draw on, Lorraine’s, mentioned above, and ‘Our voices : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work’, edited by Bindi Bennett, Sue Green, Stephanie Gilbert and Dawn Bessarab. These books need to be essential texts across all tertiary teaching institutions. Indigenous people, particularly in the Australian context need to be more recognised within social work as researchers, authors, practitioners and educators. This needs to be imbedded in social work education rather than placing us consistently as ‘clients’. I will also use this opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of more assessments tailored toward responding to the needs of Indigenous people. We are not a homogenous group and our needs are as diverse as the people we are.

I have to tip my hat to the AASW for providing these scholarships. I took away more from the conference than what I can write about here. It was great that once the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags did arrive they were displayed prominently at the AASW booth.

They certainly coloured the place in. Both ‘A Theory for Indigenous Australian Health and Human Service Work and Our voices: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work’ were available to buy at the conference or online. Lorraine’s book sold out to local and international guests, which I think is just fantastic. There is no doubt that more can be done to enhance and strengthen social work in Australia and if there is a discussion that is interested in outcomes and changes influenced by the Indigenous voice, you can count me in.

This was originally published in the print edition of the AASW Spring Edition Bulletin

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Decolonisation and Neo-Cultural Gender Expression and Identity – Workshop

Decolonisation and Neo-Cultural Gender Expression and Identity

Within Indigenous Australian cultures the discourse on sexuality and gender outside of western constraints is extremely limited. When sexuality is discussed it is more often than not in the registers of pathology that in turn speaks to a heterocentric discourse. This session will use a six stages of decolonisation process, by Dr Lorraine Muller, as a response to the cultural challenges and to identify strengths in Indigenous *LGBT people. LGBQT is presupposed as counterfeit descriptor that misconstrues pre-settler colonial Indigenous gender variance and diverse sexualities. This session will explore the idea of “Neo-Cultural Gender Expression and Identity” as a dynamic part of our cultural evolution.

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[Book review] Creating agency in Aboriginal health by Dameyon Bonson

Reflections / Book reviews
Creating agency in Aboriginal health

Dameyon Bonson
Med J Aust 2014; 201 (9): 540.
doi: 10.5694/mja14.01096

PAT ANDERSON, chair of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, provides generous praise to the authors of this work for their valuable contribution to research and practice of empowerment in Aboriginal health ( When you read this text you will find that the praise is well deserved.

The full contents of this page are only available to subscribers.


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“When indigenous (sic) is a disclaimer not a qualifier” an example. Happenings in Broome.

Sent to me via email copied from Broome Community Notice Board.  “Community Meeting tomorrow night”


The original post from *Xxxxx that kicked this meeting of

I am indigenous, and I am here to say I am sick and tired of reading some of the drivel that comes out every time someone complains about unacceptable behaviour in this town. People regularly bitch and moan about dog owners letting their dogs poop on the beach, we have whinges about backpackers washing their clothes and their body parts in public facilities, and of course there’s humbugging at Coles and the recent brawling in Anne Street.

What I am most sick and tired of is that any time someone complains about unacceptable behaviour from indigenous people, it is immediately branded a racist attack by some indigenous people. I am appalled that some of the responses from my indigenous brothers and sisters to the Anne Street brawl includes not only justifications for punching on in the street, but attempts to minimise the seriousness of these events and the damage this causes to kids watching by saying “well, it’s been happening for years!”

Yes, we know it’s been happening for years. Does that make it acceptable? Does that mean that nobody is allowed to stand up and say “this is feral behaviour?” Does this mean that anyone who says it is unacceptable is a racist just because the individuals involved happen to be indigenous?

If a group of any other race, colour or creed started doing the same, they would be justifiably condemned by the public, who are entitled to be going about their lawful business driving down a street without being confronted by a big group of brawlers and onlookers fighting, screaming, and smashing glass on the street.

Some of the people who have commented here say it needs more funding, it needs more leadership, it needs more understanding of trans-generational trauma, and that may well be true. But what it DOES NOT need, is the constant making of excuses for what is simply anti-social behaviour.

Every single time you blame something like trans-generational trauma, or social disadvantage, or the cops, or the white invaders, instead of the individual in front of you who is drunk, off his head and wanting to punch on in the street, you condemn that person to a life of low expectations and mediocrity. Every time you say, well, that’s just the way we are, you condemn generations of indigenous kids who are full of potential to never achieving theirs.

Every time you come to the defence of your countrymen because somebody complains about the behaviour of some individuals who happen to be indigenous, instead of actually looking at why the behaviour is unacceptable, you just keep the myth going that black people are incapable of being better than that.

Every time you spread the idea, directly or subliminally, that it’s ok to be anti-social and under-achieve at everything because there is a whole raft of other things to blame that are beyond your control, you create another victim. The poor-bugger-me syndrome. It’s time to put it to bed and demand a higher standard for all of us, and that can only come from within.

We ARE better than that, we know we are better than that, why don’t we demand that everybody acts like they are?



Hi everyone,

I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of new faces and getting some good ideas thrashed out.

Please have a read through this before you come along, print it out and bring it if you can.

Notes and Agenda for informal meeting of interested parties – Broome Fishing Club – 29 October (6pm start) 

Although being held as an informal meeting, there are some things I want to achieve as a result. To aim for anything less means it is nothing more than another talk fest. 

  1. Opening – *XXXXX XXXX
  2. All attendees invited to share their thoughts on something concrete they would like to achieve to bring about change in Broome.
  3. Discussion centred around the thoughts shared, with a view to narrowing them down to
  4. A short list of problems and/or issues needing to be addressed in Broome
  5. Realistic assessment of whether they can be achieved
  6. If so, how do we go about it?
  7. Formation of a committee to drive the necessary actions to address the issues.

My preliminary thoughts about things to discuss include the following:

  • Itinerant drunks and troublemakers in Chinatown
  • How do we make service providers, govt agencies and Aboriginal corporations more accountable for actually delivering services to the people that need them (I will expand on this more on the night, but it comes in the light of what is happening at Kennedy Hill, One Mile and elsewhere.)
  • Drug and alcohol issues, can we address problems for addicts, with suppliers/dealers etc?
  • Is there a place for things like a basics card, alcohol free house declarations, alcohol restrictions of some sort. Bring your ideas.



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[Survey] Exploring Indigenous Masculinity in Australia – For Indigenous Australians Males Only

Exploring Indigenous Masculinity in Australia – For Indigenous Australians Males Only.

I am an Indigenous Male and this is a preliminary survey that will assist me with constructing a presentation on Indigenous Masculinity that I will be giving in 2015.

All answers are anonymous. Your contribution is voluntary. This is insider research.

Please take this survey



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#SuicidePrevention My meeting with @GerryGeorgatos as he spent time across the Kimberely to engage and to preliminarily listen to what people had to say.

An excerpt from “Kimberley suicide rate, one of the world’s highest – Yiriman is the way to go” by Gerry Georgatos


I met with Broome-based LGBTI advocate, Dameyon Bonson. Mr Bonson is a well-respected researcher and consultant in the field of LGBTI. LGBTI First Peoples face various pressures that can only be relieved by public discussions. Mr Bonson said that in general, 3 to 4 per cent of any population identifies as LGBTI, and therefore it is likely that 3 to 4 per cent of First Peoples identify as LGBTI.

Determining the size of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population is difficult. However, recent studies by Gates and Newport (2012) in the United States estimated the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBTI at approximately 3.4 per cent.

According to the ABS, “Within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population there were an estimated 294,000 children and young people, representing 4.2 per cent of the total Australian population aged 0 to 24 years.” Mr Bonson said that in using the American figure of 3.4 per cent, there are approximately 10,000 First Peoples who are LGTBI “and whose needs are yet to be identified.”

“They cannot be forgotten.”

Mr Bonson suggested that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are LGTBI “are at four times the risk of suicide than Indigenous Australians whom are not LGTBI, whose suicide risk is already higher than the general Australian population.”

“LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia (LGBTI Health 2013), and my placing this overall data in the context of suicide makes a compelling argument that a response is required. Conversely, for Indigenous Australians the rate of suicide is ‘more than 4.2 per cent, or one in every 24 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders (The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013).”

“Health promotional programs for Indigenous, particularly those that are Government – State or Federal – have no actual Indigenous evaluation tools or methodology,” said Mr Bonson.

“Recently, at the Australasian Evaluation Society Conference in Darwin, I participated with 30 other Indigenous Australians to workshop what Indigenous evaluations should look like for Indigenous evaluators.”

“Therefore, current Government Indigenous programs are not meeting standards that we need to develop.”

“Mr Bonson is promoting the development of a Black Rainbow organisation, with more to be announced at a later time. However such a concentrated organisation should be able to generate educative discussions.”