Healing and Cultural Strengthening: Working With Aboriginal Men Who Use Family Violence

Healing and cultural strengthening are central to working with Aboriginal men who use family violence, as identified at the Working with Aboriginal Men and Family Violence Conference held in Adelaide, November 2017. A trauma informed approach, that places culture at the centre of the work, is critical to addressing family violence and the reasoning men choose to use violence against their partners and other family members.

As a result of the conference learnings, No to Violence submitted a proposal to the Department of Social Services outlining innovative ways to deliver men’s behaviour change related projects to regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Through the relationships developed at the conference, No to Violence identified several potential partners for the project, and in developing the submission, identified two innovative approaches to working with communities in their endeavours in working with men who use family violence. No to Violence was successful in receiving a grant to undertake this work, and work is well underway in developing and delivering the project.

The communities that No to Violence is working closely with are: Geraldton and Newman in WA, Coen in far north Queensland, Alice Springs in the NT, with two more communities yet to be confirmed.  No to Violence projects partners are Communicare in WA, the Centre for Aboriginal Male Healing in Newman WA, Apunipima Cape York Health Council, and Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs.

The project has two foci – identifying the workforce training needs of people working in the community who may come into contact with Aboriginal men who use family violence (including health workers, teachers, police etc). Workshops that will be delivered will enable individuals to address family violence in a meaningful and sustainable way, and develop ways community members can safely challenge the attitudes, values and actions that enable violence to occur, and in some cases, thrive. The workshops will invite those working in Aboriginal communities to develop local strategies that send consistent, clear messages to men and boys who use violence.

The other focus of the project will see the development of workshops designed for men who are working with other men in their communities, to address family violence. Our project partners on this phase of the project are Dardi Munwurro and Mibbinbah. The workshops will:

  • focus on accountability
  • focus on the needs of women and children’s safety
  • identify how to create safe spaces for men
  • develop cultural activities that aim to strengthen identity
  • identify ways to address men’s trauma and healing

While the workshop will be men only spaces – they will be informed by the needs of women and children, and their right to live safely without violence. The objective of the workshops will be to develop skills and resources for the men in communities, to continue to work with men who use family violence and to reduce instances and the impact of family violence in the community.

No to Violence is privileged to be working with Alan Thorpe from Dardi Munwurro and Jack Bulman from Mibbinbah on these projects, as they are contributing their significant experience to the project and passing on their knowledge to enable and empower men in the communities we are working with. We hope to build upon the great work communities already undertake to address family violence.

Supporting organisations in regions we have not had a presence in before means that No to Violence is working nationwide to end men’s family violence. We are forging meaningful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people, and importantly a two-way learning is happening. We are learning from our amazing project partners about the cultural specificities of the approaches to family violence in Indigenous communities, and our contribution will see the development of resource and professional development. It’s early days, but so far the response to the project is overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited about the hard work ahead.

Janis Constable

No to Violence’s Indigenous Engagement and Research Consultant

JanisC@ntv.org.au

You can read more about this project and related programs working with Aboriginal communities, in the recent ABC News article: Unconventional family violence program wins funding in Indigenous communities.

From the right: Alan Thorpe (Dardi Munwurro), Janis Constable (No to Violence), Patricia Lewis (Geraldton & Regions Aboriginal Medical Service), Tori Cook (RUAH), Kyalie Moore (Communicare) and Devon Cuimara (Aboriginal Centre for Male Healing, Newman)