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Identity, prejudice and healing

Published: February 25, 2010, Author: AngelSupport

The work of Professor Judy Atkinson in Australia has moved forward a scholarship and practice around what she has called ‘educaring’ as a distinctly Indigenous approach to what may be thought of as a combination of education, therapy, counselling, and community-based social work. The latter constructs are easily identified from mainstream systems that have evolved within western nations over the past two centuries. However, from an Aboriginal perspective, the field of ‘wholistic medicine’ as an Indigenous approach does not currently and adequately convey the breath and depth of an Indigenous cultural method of intervention. Atkinson’s work is innovative in that she moved forward the discourse around sensitive issues of child abuse, inter-generational violence, and trans-generational trauma and recovery from unique minority frames of reference. Her doctoral work (Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines, 2002) is both profound scholarship and is a profoundly moving testament to the real human impacts of colonisation as an external force to be reckoned with for Aboriginal communities and families. But more so, her work reveals the high costs to health and well being along with the impacts in identity fragmentation across generations within minority families. As we reflect on global politics and socioeconomic issues, the work of many of us whose efforts focus on education, health and wellness suggests that governments and civic leaders must remain aware of the contemporary and enduring social and cultural impacts of political actions. Policies and practices have real and lasting impact on minority people’s lives. The long term health impacts of poor policy decisions, based in what can only be seen as a form of systematic and prejudicial approaches to minority politics, often resulting in long-term costs for national governments and the international community whose responsibility it remains to address solutions. With any hope these solutions will become authentic cooperative engagements with base communities whose lives were impacted and continue to be impacted by colonisation, relocation, disengagement, familial division, and the other numerous tactics of colonial practice. Not the least of these concerns is the relation between education, health and wellness services and systems and Indigenous communities. Too often this long term social net is overlooked, while back handedly used by policy makers as a catch-all, and more often than a critical sociologist would like to admit, used as a means of continued and politically correct form of colonisation and oppression. Inappropriate education, health and wellness services are simply that, inappropriate.But the argument suggests a deeper cultural mismatch between colonial mainstream practices verses minority cultural beliefs, attitudes and values that remain outside of the official discourses within the helping professions. Another worldview exists and is struggling to be articulated. Included here is the difficult relationship of the helping professions in “managing” issues of family violence, substance abuse, child welfare, and social services. Often these front line services are overshadowed by mainstream politics and policies that have little if nothing to do with Aboriginal perspectives.As a member of these professions allow me to suggest that it is critically important to remain self-critical of the role, status and power that the health, education, and helping fields carry in our daily practices. In one sense, we practitioners stand at the “coal face” between written policy and political agenda verses people’s real lives and the impacts of said policy and political will. In another sense, and reflecting on the work of Professor Atkinson, as well as that of Indigenous scholar Eduardo Duran (Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and other Native Peoples, 2006), in my view within western nations, Indigenous and minority groups are attempting to articulate alternative methods and this, in my view, gives rise to an “Indigenous Therapeutics” as a distinct approach to education, health and wellness that relies on culturally grounded and culturally infused approaches that are appropriate to Indigenous cultures as well as offering innovative and timely solutions to mainstream populations.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

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