Healing is designed to empower communities and individuals to take control of their lives and help improve and restore wellbeing, by addressing distress and overcoming trauma.

Healing seeks to renew communities so that everyone feels good about the way they live and the way they feel.

Ways to support healing included reconnecting with culture, strengthening identity, restoring safe and enduring relationships and supporting communities to understand the impact that their experiences have had on their behaviour to help create change.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced significant trauma including high levels of grief and loss and frequent exposure to violence. For a number of women this has resulted in diagnoses of anxiety, depression and other illnesses which are clearly correlated with ‘traumatic grief’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women also carry the burden of supporting their communities especially through raising children.

It is important that women’s healing work reflects elements identified as critical to effective healing such as the creation of a safe environment where healing can be fostered and group-based approaches to improving wellbeing.

Healing programs provide a forum for women to come together to overcome the social isolation that is common for those who have experienced trauma by engaging and sharing cultural knowledge with other women from their region and supporting children and young people to share in their cultural knowledge.

The programs support women to reconnect with their ancestral women’s dreaming, enabling them to walk in their grandmother’s footsteps.  Women draw strength from this connection to country which increases their capacity to deal with the trauma in their daily lives.

Women’s healing programs recognise the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s work and its importance in building our communities which helps to boost self-esteem and pride.

Around Australia women’s healing programs are providing significant pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to improve their mental health and wellbeing and gain employment.

For example, the Wake up time program in northern NSW was formed in 2003 in response to concerns from local Aboriginal women about violence and drug and alcohol problems in their community. The women decided that art, and in particular weaving, would act as a means of meditation and therapy for them.

Through the program, the women have:

  • increased their skills and confidence and their capacity to participate in work and other activities
  • built their cultural connections and cultural pride by revitalising traditional culture
  • improved their intra- and inter- personal skills.

Key resources



Pathways to Healing by Jenna Lee

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