Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Indigenous Healing Forum Dinner


I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered.

I understand that you had a passionate and challenging discussion today.

We all know that healing has many and varied dimensions and that the healing journey can take people along different paths.

We also understand that the focus on grief and loss is not about making excuses for people or lowering our expectations about people’s ability to change.

It’s about supporting them-helping them find peace with the past and hope for the future.

This is not just about change in Indigenous communities. We all have a responsibility to change the way we do things.

And it has to be acknowledged that while the national apology opened a new chapter there is much to be done to build trust between Aboriginal people and government.

As far as I know, this forum is the first time an Australian Government has recognised the impact of grieving and trauma on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and asked the question: what should be done?

In today’s discussions, Greg Phillips talked about a ‘psychic numbing’ evident in Indigenous communities-because people have too much pain to deal with.

People start to think that chaos is normal.

The Government is committed to changing this perception. We want to support communities and families to drive this change themselves.

To do this we need your experience across the broad spectrum of healing.

People like Greg Phillips one of Australia’s first Aboriginal medical anthropologists.

I understand that Greg provided an impressive overview and vision of the issues this morning. He’s worked in Aboriginal education, land councils, youth leadership and health and huge experience in developing community healing initiatives, as well as contributing to policy and research in this area.

With his varied community work in remote Australia, and now as deputy chair of the Maya Living Free Healing Centre in Melbourne, he’s well placed to define why we are all here today.

Glendra Stubbs, a woman of the Wiradjuri people, is CEO of Link-Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation, and a long-time foster parent.

I’m sure everyone here is very familiar with the work Link-Up does, helping Aboriginal people who were forcibly separated from their families and communities find their way home.

Alison Aggarwal, a senior policy officer in the Social Justice Unit at the Australian Human Rights Commission who gave feedback on recent consultations to set up a national Indigenous healing body.

Mandy Young who manages Aboriginal Programs at the NSW Attorney General’s Department.

Last year Mandy travelled to Canada to look at community-based healing circles used in sexual assault cases in Aboriginal communities.

Mandy found that healing only happens in a safe, open environment, that it must be approached holistically and that it can only be achieved when people take responsibility for their own healing.

The Canadian model has also been critiqued by Professor Judy Atkinson who is head of Southern Cross University’s Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

She has developed the Healing Circle to deal with the increasing levels of trauma among Indigenous Australians.

Mark Williams and Bronte Brodie, who have set up Authentic Community Training, repairing the spirits of Aboriginal men, both individually and in groups.

Many of their programs focus on the issues that affect men especially, although not exclusively-violence, suicide and addiction.

As Bronte said, they combine the best of Western psychotherapy with culturally relevant ceremony and emotional therapy.

And Jade Maddox and Julie Potter advocates of the Yorgum Model of Healing which takes a cultural approach to healing victims of family violence and sexual abuse.

In a few minutes we will hear from Lyn Austin-a member of the Stolen Generation.

Lyn, chair of Stolen Generations Victoria, was taken from her family when she was 10 years old.

Fortunately she was able to make it back home before her mum passed away at the age of 36-something so many others have not been able to do.

When I met Lyn in January this year, we discussed the Apology and what it meant for her-the 10-year old girl taken away from her mother one day in the Wimmera.

As she said, the Apology is an important start.

The work all of you are doing helps build on this start to generate positive change-not just among your mob but among all of us-to create an equal and reconciled country.