Exploring Healing Programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities: A Path to Addressing Family Violence

We are pleased to let you know the research report titled “What works? Exploring the literature on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing programs that respond to family violence” has been released. This report, authored by Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Madi Day, and Dr Terri Farrelly, and published by ANROWS, delves into the effectiveness of healing programs in addressing family violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. WorkUP Queensland has provided a summary paper on our resource hub.

The findings shed light on the importance of understanding trauma, the need for community involvement, and the role of healing programs in dismantling the systems of violence introduced by colonisation.

Colonialism has had a profound impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, introducing systems of violence that disrupt relationships and perpetuate intergenerational trauma. Family violence is experienced at alarmingly high rates, particularly by women, children, LGBTQIASB+ individuals, and those living with disability. However, it is crucial to recognise that family violence is not an inherent quality of these communities but rather a consequence of historical and ongoing systemic injustices.

The findings provide further evidence on the effectiveness of healing programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing and/or using family violence. Key factors that contribute to the success of healing programs in addressing family violence include:

  1. Shared Understanding: Healing programs foster a shared understanding of trauma, holistic approaches, and the impacts of colonisation and intergenerational trauma. This includes recognising individuals as more than just perpetrators or victims of violence and delivering programs in safe and familiar spaces.
  2. Empowering Women: Involving women in the design, delivery, and evaluation of healing programs is essential. This approach ensures that programs meet the specific needs of communities and removes barriers to participation created by top-down approaches.
  3. Building Trust: Trust is established when services and programs meet community expectations, demonstrate credibility, and prioritise comfort and safety. Trust is a critical element for effective healing work.

 The report also highlights that healing programs, which support and include men and boys in the healing and reintegration process, can contribute to progress towards meeting the Closing the Gap target of reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the criminal justice system. By addressing the root causes of family violence, these programs offer an alternative to punitive measures and promote healing and reconciliation.

 Understanding new research can help us reflect on and grow in our practice. Take a moment to consider:

  • What do these findings mean for my work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
  • What parts of this research resonates with my practice. What could I change?

You can access the research summary now on the WorkUP Resource Hub, or the full report via the project page on the ANROWS website.  If you would like to know more about a particular piece of research, or what the current state of knowledge about a topic is, you can let us know via this form: https://forms.office.com/r/AXWJmapBLE