Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative and Yorta Yorta Nation’s Aboriginal Corporation are working together to establish a traditional healing centre in the Hume region of Victoria to heal the past and prepare for the future.
Project Officer Yasmar Lovett says the community recognised the need for a healing centre and successfully applied for funding through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.
“Healing can be very sacred to an individual or family, and our community believed it was important to prepare something for the future. We recognised there were families under pressure and we decided it was an opportunity to create a Traditional Healing Centre that was a space to strengthen community, families and individuals so they could heal themselves or each other,” Yasmar says.
The project is community driven, with a series of community forums being held to guide the establishment of the healing centre and a community advisory committee to oversee the project.
Advice and traditional knowledge will be sought from traditional owners and the Aboriginal community on traditional healing methods, education and resources and healing services to be incorporated into the centre.
“The healing centre will be based on traditional Aboriginal values and will be located at Rumbalara, hopefully next door to our health service at Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative. Aboriginal art therapy, wild flower essence healing, and music/relaxation therapy will be some of the activities we hope to introduce,” Yasmar says.
Addressing the painful legacies of the past through providing counselling for grief and trauma will be a priority of the centre, and this includes helping the Stolen Generations. Other priorities include recording Elders’ stories and re-introducing language where possible.
“They are very important to us. Without our stories or language we don’t have a connection to our culture or land. Language and our stories keep our culture alive and strong,” Yasmar says.
It’s hoped the project will be up and running by the end of December 2013, then begin operations in 2014 and the committee is working hard towards that goal.
There are eight representatives from Yorta Yorta and the Elders’ Council, Rumbalara Co-operative and the local Aboriginal community on the advisory committee.
The committee will advise on all stages of planning, implementation and evaluation of the project, as well as provide advice on traditional healing approaches to be used at the centre.
“It’s important for the project to be community driven,” Yasmar says. “Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative is a community controlled organisation and without the community we don’t have anything.”
She describes traditional healing as “knowing who you are, where you come from, and practicing traditional healing methods that benefit you so that your spirit is in a happy and better place.”
A key feature of the centre will be the establishment of a Traditional Bush Medicine garden.
“It will create a peaceful and inviting environment as well as providing a source of healing ingredients. Activities will include: bringing young and old together to share their history, culture, language and traditions; and activities on the land of cultural, historical and spiritual significance,” she says.
“We hope to identify plants that can be used for either food, craft, medicinal use or tool use.”
Some of the healing treatments proposed for the centre also include singing from traditional song cycles, providing a sense of land ownership, smoking ceremonies, music and water therapy as well as dance (traditional and contemporary).
Among other priorities for the healing centre are Elders and youth connecting, men’s and women’s business, community input and ‘youth, culture, respect and family’.
The Traditional Healing Centre will complement Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative’s range of existing counselling and health services.