Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2008, Chapter 4: Beyond the Apology – an agenda for healing
On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Australian Parliament, made a historic and long overdue national Apology to the Stolen Generations. With eloquence and emotion, Prime Minister Rudd said what so many Australians have wanted to say, and what so many Indigenous peoples have needed to hear. The National Apology was a ‘line in the sand that marks the beginning of a new relationship and era of respect’. We now need to build on this relationship and respect to move beyond the National Apology to healing. This chapter will help outline an agenda for what is needed for this healing to occur.
Healing has been taking place in many different Indigenous communities and contexts. I have detailed just a few of these excellent examples in previous Social Justice Reports. An Indigenous well-being model was also part of the Bringing them home report’s recommendations:
Recommendation 33a: That all services and programs provided for survivors of forcible removal emphasise local Indigenous healing and well-being perspectives.
Recommendation 33b: That government funding for Indigenous preventative and primary mental health (well-being) services be directed exclusively to Indigenous community-based services including Aboriginal and Islander health services, child care agencies and substance abuse services.
Recommendation 33c: That all government-run mental health services works towards delivering specialist services in partnership with Indigenous community-based services and employ Indigenous mental health workers and community members respected for their healing skills.
Gamarada Healing and Life Training
Gamarada is an example of a strong community healing program taking up the issue of healing and life skills development. Men’s groups have gained increasing support in Indigenous communities and are now seen as a powerful way for Indigenous men and community to look at issues of healing and identity. Gamarada, meaning ‘comrades or friends’ in the Gadigal language, is based in Redfern, NSW and is a 10 week group program adapted for adults, youth and children that incorporates traditional Indigenous culture and healing with Eastern methods of self healing and self control.
While most group programs are based around ‘talking therapies’, Gamarada teaches participants practical skills as well, like relaxation, breathing, visualisation exercises and awareness in connection to Indigenous spiritual concepts like Dadirri (deep listening and quiet stillness) and anger management or as it is termed in Gamarada ‘non-reaction’ techniques. The program shows participants how they can apply these skills in their own life and discuss issues like anger management, substance use and family violence.
Gamarada founder Ken Zulumovski says funding and administrative support is crucial to the sustainability and expansion of the Gamarada program and others like it. There are hundreds of men who are beginning to look to the Gamarada model for support and daily enquiries from community and government services are adding to the list. These men and their boys sometimes pass up mainstream services to opt for something cultural.
Gamarada also creates a great opportunity to encourage and educate the men and inturn their families about the importance of regular health checks with their GP. This is fundamental to closing the gap in Aboriginal health and stifling the cycles of poverty that lead to crime, prison and low socio economic status. Ken Zulumovski says: