Knowledge Circles

Indigenous communities have utilised the framework of knowledge sharing and exchange for thousands of years. Knowledge systems have ensured that community structures remained strong. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always shared wisdom and knowledge through their stories.

Knowledge was gained through interaction with the environment, totems and ceremonial groups, ensuring community leadership was shared and the system of knowledge transfer did not rest in one person. Community members had responsibility for certain knowledge relationships thus reinforcing shared leadership and responsibility.

Knowledge circles enable an equal and collaborative way of working.

They do not presume that your knowledge is greater than mine but open a possibility of sharing and respecting how we build our knowledge system together, strengthening our understanding and ensuring equal responsibility for an outcome.

They enable an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander world view to be enacted by supporting the strengths of cultural wisdom and systems to be reinstated and this strengthens participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.

Virtual Knowledge Circles

In response to the lockdown conditions throughout Queensland, WorkUP Queensland went online and continued engaging the sector Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Domestic and Family Violence, Sexual Assault and Women’s Health services via online web seminars.

These webinars resulted in Virtual Knowledge Circles that brought together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Domestic and Family Violence, Sexual Assault and Women’s Health workers from around the State to a virtual space to participate in the Knowledge Circles.

The series commenced in April with the first Virtual Knowledge Circle themed “Responding to the challenges of the Coronavirus Pandemic within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Domestic and Family Violence Sector” and opened the door to successive Virtual Knowledge throughout April, May and concluding in June.

The following series of Virtual Knowledge Circles were titled:

  • “Responding to people experiencing intergenerational trauma triggered by these events.” (24 April)
  • “Strategies for engagement in behaviour change programs when face to face groups aren’t possible.” (7 May)
  • “Understanding and responding to increased risk of DFV in disasters through shared knowledge and practice Self-care strategies for staff.” (24 May)
  • “Self-Care strategies for Staff.” (4 June)

The circles were held in conjunction with the Healing Foundations Director of Programs, Sarah Boyne who provided valuable insight and support into many of the themes including healing, response, support and practice.

The series attracted over 30 participants, which utilised virtual breakout rooms to encourage the open and respectful discussion for the sharing of knowledge and practice application within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector.

Closing the Circle

Once  sessions were concluded, the circles were ‘closed’  and summaries of the key learnings sent back to the circle participants.

Some the stand out themes have included:

  • The need to understand trauma to connect with other people’s trauma.
  • Understanding what is culture” and how habits can become a part of one’s culture.
  • Practices and learnings that help to break down the shame and stigma of violence in our communities.
  • Services continue to be client focussed and strengths based.
  • Have yarns instead of chats with clients.
  • Clients still value check ins, regardless of it being phone, emails or agency visits during lockdown.


Despite being a new medium in which to facilitate a conventional process, Virtual Knowledge Circles proved to work well in connecting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Domestic and Family Violence sector.

Based on the participation rates and feedback to date, we are anticipating that the sector would like to continue with the Virtual Knowledge Circles in developing a network and communities  of practice through the sharing of their regional knowledge and practices.

Future Knowledge Circles both face to face and virtual will look to identify emerging trends and practices through this network of communities and relationships developed during these knowledge circles.