THeMHS 2014 S016: Culture, Trauma and Mental Health

By August 28, 2014 No Comments

You can tread an abstract of these presentations here.

Culturally appropriate clinical supervision for Aboriginal mental health and Social & Emotional Well-being workforce of NSW.

Indigenous mental health is still often not considered in a cultural context. There are very different ways of working with indigenous Australians that practitioners often don’t consider when assessing mental health.

Alana Rossman and Lucy Abbott discussed the clinical supervision model used in the Aboriginal Social Emotional and Well-being (SEWB) by the Mental Health workforce in NSW. Aboriginal people have historically been ‘supervised’ by government, public, society as a whole. So it is important for people to consider that their understanding can be very different to a person who is an indigenous Australian.

For effective supervision there needs to be confidentiality, trust, peer support, cultural safety, structure and support. The SEWB model is called ‘Our Healing Ways’ and is a culturally appropriate model that addresses all these issues and has wider application to non-Aboriginal workforce.

The benefits of this program are about building workers knowledge, skill, and insight. It is a reflective and holistic process that allows workers to grow and improve their resilience.

Aboriginal workers are often working in their own communities where their history and complex issues of trauma are present. The need for effective supervision is vital to the retention of workers and a reduction of the burnout they experience. This model works towards both achieving these outcomes and also fostering their value in the workforce. To take care of workers in a culturally appropriate way is to care for their clients.


Years of Continuous Trauma: Inter-generational Trauma.

“Learning is a lifelong experience”, true words spoken by John Van der Giezen.

John Van Der Giezen has been a social worker for over 25 years and has worked extensively in the Indigenous community. His experience of Aboriginal people shows them to be strong, self-sufficient people, with both a resilient collective culture and a diverse range of languages.

Trauma stemming from the history of settlement, introduction of diseases, conflict, and the removal of children has rippled through generations with a profound impact. John discussed the normalising of this trauma and how people often question “why haven’t we moved on?” There is collective trauma that families and individuals experience. It has had profound consequences that include family violence, sexual abuse, racism, and  numbing the emotional pain through substance misuse.

John emphasised a need to focus on collective assistance rather than individual intervention when a society has been so deeply affected. When working with Indigenous Australians it is important to remember and recognise the trauma they have experienced. Also important is providing a sense of safety, connectedness and hope.

Healing is achieved through family and community, including strong trusting relationships. It is not enough to just acknowledge difference, it is also necessary to continue learning how to work with it.