Government and community organisations will take some time out on 23 July to learn about healing and what a powerful force it can be in rebuilding Aboriginal identity and culture.
The NSW Government is the first state or territory to make healing a central pillar of its Aboriginal Affairs policy, and will partner with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation to hold the OCHRE Healing Forum at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
The Forum is a unique opportunity for policy makers and program providers across NSW Government departments, and non-government organisations, to listen to and learn from Aboriginal perspectives on healing.
This event will showcase what healing is, look at some of the successful healing work already occurring in communities across NSW and begin to look at how government can continue to engage and support healing across the state.
OCHRE – the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal Affairs – stands for Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility and Empowerment and is symbolic of Aboriginal communities’ deep connection with country. OCHRE was informed by a Ministerial Taskforce which involved broad consultation with Aboriginal communities across the state.
“The importance of healing was clearly identified as priority for Aboriginal communities during those consultations,” says NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello. “Through OCHRE, we aim to address the underlying causes of trauma – not just treat the symptoms – with programs that revitalise culture and give autonomy back to Aboriginal communities.”
Richard Weston, CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, says NSW should be congratulated for being the only state or territory that has healing built into its central policy document for Aboriginal Affairs.
“Healing is happening all over the place,” says Weston. “It has been part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life for thousands of years. We have always had loss and trauma and grief to cope with and we’ve done it through ceremony, through our connection to land and country.
“What we’ve had for the past 200 years is a great change to our way of life. Our ceremony and harmony and connection to land and country have been broken down through disease, poverty, alcohol and violence.”
“What healing does is reconnect us through our own culture and history. We see what’s turned into high levels of dysfunction – alcoholism, violence against women, child abuse, poor health – as symptoms of the trauma that has occurred over longer periods of time.”
Mr Weston says healing is a way of overcoming the tendency to default to focusing on things that can’t be changed. It allows individuals to get control over their lives and look for positive pathways.
“Through connecting to culture we can strengthen our identity and take action to have a better future,” he says.
“The best part about healing is that it doesn’t anchor people in the past, it gives them hope. We would like the NSW bureaucracy to see it as an important, compelling concept that can be taken into health, education and job creation.”
The OCHRE Healing Forum is being organised by a reference group which includes representatives from: Aboriginal Affairs NSW, Link-Up, Healing Foundation, NSW Reconciliation Council, NSW Health Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV), UNSW Australia Muru Marri, Kinchela Boys Inc, Cootamundra Girls Inc, NSW Health.