Emerging Minds
Learning
4hrs

Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

About the course

This course was developed by Emerging Minds in partnership with The Healing Foundation.

 

This course will use a positive, strengths-based, ‘hope-inspired’ focus to support your work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, reinforcing their connections, strengths and skills.1,2 The course will help you to think about the 'whole child' – their hopes, aspirations, strengths, stories of connections to family, kinship, Country and culture – as well as family histories of problems, challenges and trauma. The course also uses a social-political-historical lens to build an understanding of disadvantage, loss of culture, and trauma in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

The four elements of the course are:

  • An understanding of social and emotional wellbeing, and how this can be used in child-centred conversations about child and family connections and problems.
  • An understanding of child development in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
  • The role that trauma has played in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, and how understanding this can help make positive and healing conversations happen.
  • The essential role of family and community in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and how these relationships can be supported through hard times.

Modules

What is social and emotional wellbeing?

This module will describe the social and emotional wellbeing model, which can help you to have conversations with children and families about connections and problems that affect their lives. The module will help you to think about your current work, and what you can do to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to share their stories with you, in ways that help them to better understand their own lives from a strengths-based perspective.

Child development

This module looks at taking a strengths-based approach to the four stages of child development. This includes talking with parents and children about how developmental milestones and culture overlap, and about challenges or disruptions to healthy and positive development.

Taking a strengths-based and hope-inspired approach to trauma

In this module, you will consider a strengths-based and hope-inspired approach to support your work with parents and children who are affected by historical and complex trauma.

Connections are our strength

This module will explore attachment, a Western concept of bonding with children, as well as our own deep understanding of connections.

Who is this course for?

This course is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. This includes those practitioners working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled or mainstream services, and those working in private practice.

Self-care

As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotions and 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're starting to feel stressed, emotional 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 possible, talk and share with colleagues who have also undertaken this training. 

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.

Some essential strategies for self-care include:

  • being prepared – thinking through the ‘what-ifs’ step by step
  • understanding personal signs of being overwhelmed
  • setting prompts that will notify you that you need to pull back
  • pre-determining how you will pull back, and how you know you will be OK to re-engage
  • linking into peer supports
  • engaging in, and prescheduling, regular stress-reduction activities; and
  • seeking opportunities to reflect on your experiences with your professional colleagues.

You will explore specific tips for self-care for yourself later in this course. These are also relevant to your staff and your family.

Definitions

Social and emotional wellbeing is a complex, multidimensional concept of health that includes but extends beyond conventional understandings of mental health and mental disorder. Mental health and wellbeing is an important component of social and emotional wellbeing, but needs to be viewed as only one component of health that is inextricably linked to the social, emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of wellbeing.3

A child-centred approach involves focusing on the rights and needs of children. It recognises their unique feelings and experiences and ensures that they are included in the decisions that affect their lives.

Throughout this course, a socio-political-historical context is used to describe the history of marginalisation and the current effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This includes an understanding of the impacts that colonisation and past government policies have had on Stolen Generations survivors, and the impacts of intergenerational trauma.

When working with people, taking a trauma-aware and healing-informed approach will help you consider the impact of your work on their wellbeing. People who have experienced trauma require patience and careful consideration of their trauma story, to help prevent re-traumatisation and maximise the healing process. Key principles of the trauma-informed approach will be covered throughout each of the modules.

Prevention and early intervention is used to describe work with children and families that can recognise risks to children’s social and emotional wellbeing at the first possible opportunity, so that families can be supported to overcome problems and challenges in ways that ensure positive outcomes.

The empowerment and strengths-based approach focuses on developing people’s stories of strengths, connections, resilience and know-how. Once children and families are able to tell these stories and understand the strategies they use to solve problems, they are more able to repeat these stories of strength and connection in the future. The empowerment and strengths-based approach can be hope-inspired for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, providing them with opportunities to find their own solutions to problems caused by socio-political-historical disadvantage.

A therapeutic narrative approach is a respectful, non-blaming way to conduct counselling and community work, which views people as the experts in their own lives. This approach looks at problems as separate from people, and assumes that people have many skills, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will help them change the way they think about problems in their lives. Curiosity, and a willingness to ask questions to which we don’t know the answers, are important principles of this work.4

Assessment

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources developed by Emerging Minds aim to ‘de-centre’ the expert. With this fundamental value in mind, and with guidance from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Consultancy Group, this course is not designed to meet cultural competency training requirements. The reasoning behind this is:

  • Cultural competency trainings should be provided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations.
  • Emerging Minds does not endorse this resource being used to meet cultural training requirements.
  • Engaging with, and valuing, local knowledge and connections is the core principle for any work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and therefore takes precedence over a centralised training course.

Acknowledgements

Foundational to all of the work from the Healing Foundation is a co-designed approach that has been refined through more than 100 partnership projects with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over 10 years. Co-design incorporates the key principle of working directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children to empower them to develop solutions for themselves. We would like to thank the knowledge circle representatives from the Healing Foundation and Emerging Minds, and recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family mental health and wellbeing experts, who worked collaboratively, to guide this project.

References

  1. Chamberlain, C., Gee, G., Gartland, D., Mensah, F. K., Mares, S., Clark, Y., … Nicholson, J. M. (2020). Community perspectives of complex trauma assessment for Aboriginal parents: It's important, but how these discussions are held is critical. Frontiers in Psychology (11). Available here.
  2. Atkinson, J., Nelson, J., & Atkinson, C. (2010). Trauma, transgenerational transfer and effects on community wellbeing. In N. Purdie, P. Dudgeon & R. Walker (Eds) Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing practices and principles. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. 
  3. Zubrick, S. R., Shepherd, C. C. J., Dudgeon, P., Gee, G., Paradies, Y., Scrine, C., & Walker, R. (2014). Social determinants of social and emotional wellbeing. In P. Dudgeon, H. Milroy & R. Walker (Eds.) Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice (2). (pp. 93–112). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Available here.
  4. Morgan, A. (2000). What is narrative therapy: An easy to read introduction. Adelaide: The Dulwich Centre. Available here.

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