Emerging Minds
Learning
5hrs

Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future: Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

About the course

This course has been developed by Emerging Minds in partnership with Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future, a project under Onemda, the Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Health, Wellbeing, Equity and Healing unit, within the University of Melbourne.

This participatory co-design project, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Lowitja Institute, is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners and researchers from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Southern Cross University, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, We Al-li Pty Ltd, Monash University, Flinders University, the Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance Northern Territory, Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia, Orygen, VACCHO, Congress, Women and Children Health Network SA, Charles Darwin University, and Moorondi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health service, in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

 

Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future
Cultures Child, Ink on paper, 2018, Shawana Andrews

A father, mother and child wearing possum skin cloaks sitting by a myrnong daisy, the father holds the stem and looks to the daisy as it holds history and knowledge of the ancestors, this gives him strength. The mother holds a newborn and rests against the stem, it supports her. Mother and father are on different sides of the stem representing their different paths and roles in caring and nurturing for children. The daisy is in flower but also has a new bud and speaks of future generations and continuity. The stones below represent a strong foundation of many generations and the stitching on the cloaks represent the relational connectedness of Aboriginal people and worldview. The mother's hair blows in the wind, representing change.

Modules

Understanding the historical context

This introductory module will provide an overview of the historical and contextual factors impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Understanding the impact of intergenerational trauma

This second module will provide an introductory understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The importance of the ‘first 2,000 days’

In this third module, you will explore why it is critical for practitioners to have a ‘both ways’ approach when providing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families during the ‘first 2,000 days’.

Fostering safety and awareness of complex trauma in perinatal care

In this module, you will explore seven broad themes relating to parents’ experiences during the ‘first 2,000 days’ (pregnancy, birth and early postpartum), which emerged from the Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future study. You will read reflections from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, and consider how these principles can support your practice with First Nations families.

Talking about trauma and culturally safe support with parents

This module provides an overview of how to talk with parents and carers about complex trauma and different ways to provide them with support.

Becoming a parent is exciting, but it can also be hard, especially for people who have experienced bad or hurtful things in the past. Memories can be ‘stirred up’, affecting how individuals feel and making it harder for people to be the parent they want to be.

However, having a baby is also an important opportunity to heal from past hurt, through nurturing love. It is critical that practitioners supporting parents through this transition have the understanding and expertise to provide culturally and emotionally safe care, especially when parents are experiencing complex social and emotional challenges.

This course, designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners and researchers, reflects the strengths, resilience and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It shares learnings from four years of co-design work, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to develop strategies to identify and support parents experiencing complex trauma – ‘healing the past by nurturing the future’.1 

For too long, simultaneous disregard – and in many cases, active suppression – of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge generation, expression, and sharing has led to distorted understandings ‘about’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that reflect non-Indigenous values, beliefs and prejudices.2 Research and education has been led by non-Indigenous people conducting research ‘on’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, using methodologies underpinned by privilege, racism and assumptions of knowledge superiority. This is then reflected in societal policies, health care and education systems.

In contrast, this course shares knowledge through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘lens’. It offers a different perspective on ways of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and invites you to reflect on ‘decolonising your thinking’ and therefore ways of “being” and “doing”.

Western scientific approaches can save many lives. This course does not propose any of that is wrong. Rather, it invites you to expand your knowledge and develop new skills, to strengthen your capacity to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families at a critical time. Concepts of ‘Ganma’ or ‘two ways’ learning and knowledge translation have been embedded throughout. This approach is outlined by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s first community-controlled research institute, in their video, What is Knowledge Exchange?

As such, in this course, you will first encounter learnings from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, and then Western research perspectives. These do not claim to represent all available Community and/or research knowledge.  

Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future Conceptual Framework

Conceptual framework

Information about the Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future project can be found on the University of Melbourne website. This includes published papers, workshop reports and newsletters. You can also sign up to their mailing list to receive regular project updates.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for non-Indigenous care providers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and their children. This includes those practitioners working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled or mainstream services, and those working in private practice.

Learning aims

As you move through the five modules in this course, you will work to:

  • gain awareness of historical and contextual factors impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • understand intergenerational trauma and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • understand why pregnancy, birth and the early transition to parenting is a critical time for parents experiencing complex trauma, and the significant role of care providers
  • understand the key principles of fostering safety in perinatal care (awareness), and examples of models that can help to facilitate safety
  • demonstrate essential prerequisites and practical skills for talking with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents about complex trauma; and
  • identify the broad range of options that may be required to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents experiencing complex trauma.

Duration

It is estimated that this course will take you approximately 5 hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked. You will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.

Self-care

Self-care is very important as you work through this course. Some of the content may be distressing and can ‘trigger’ your own memories. As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on
13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.

Definitions

For the purpose of this course, the term ‘parent’ encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising a child.

Social and emotional wellbeing’ refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.3

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.4

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.5

Social and emotional development’ involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.6

References

  1. Chamberlain, C., Gee, G., Brown, S. J., Atkinson, J., Herrman, H., Gartland, D., ... Nicholson, J. (2019). Healing the past by nurturing the future—co-designing perinatal strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander parents experiencing complex trauma: Framework and protocol for a community-based participatory action research study. BMJ Open, 9(6), e028397.
  2. Laycock, A. F., Walker, D., Harrison, N., & Brands, J. (2011). Researching Indigenous health: A practical guide for researchers. Melbourne: Lowitja Institute.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: Development of a children’s headline indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW. Available here.
  4. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.
  5. Everymind. 2020. Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Accessed 07/05/2020. Available here.
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children 2009. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW. Available here.

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