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Principle 2: Safety is a priority

It is critical that holistic healing approaches ensure the safety of all Aboriginal people – adults and children – that they seek to support. The healing journey is facilitated when safety (personal, emotional, physical, spiritual and cultural) has been assured, risk assessments have been completed, and healing/safety plans are in place; and when those who use violence are held accountable and supported to change their behaviour.

Aboriginal people have a right to cultural safety. The spaces and places where services are delivered must be culturally responsive and respectful to ensure that all individuals and families can be supported to  thrive – physically, psychologically and emotionally. Strengths-based approaches that value Aboriginal knowledge and expertise must be applied across all healing spaces.

When services are culturally unsafe, communities identify their experiences as being dismissed and feel defeated. They feel vulnerable, experience shame and find it stressful to deal with multiple service agencies. These issues and gaps must be addressed and eliminated for safety to ensue and for effective healing to occur.

Throughout the co-design process, we also heard about the critical role that Elders, workers and community leaders play in ensuring the safety of people on a healing journey and providing leadership that violence is not acceptable within the community.

Service design characteristics

It is widely recognised that healing can only occur when people are supported in safe spaces, where they can share their stories and take steps towards  strengthening their physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural health and wellbeing.

The following characteristics underpin safety in the context of designing holistic healing approaches:

  • Program design ensures community members have a right to feel and be safe.
  • Keeping children safe is paramount.
  • Ensure immediate safety and basic needs are met for all victims including men, women, children and young people.
  • Community members have a right to feel and be safe.
  • Connect whole of family to role models and guides for support.
  • People who use violence are held accountable.
  • Culture is vital for individuals, families and communities to heal.
  • A whole of family approach is applied where safe to do so.
  • Elders, workers and community leaders play a significant role in safety.

What does this look like in practice for?

Aboriginal people who need healing are provided with:

  • Support to know how and where to seek help if they feel unsafe.
  • Access to culturally safe, informed support that reflects Aboriginal cultural strengths, values and traditional wisdom.
  • Safe places to meet, yarn, share knowledge and culture.
  • Access to whole of family holistic approaches and responses that provide an improved understanding of the causes and effects of violence.
  • Environments in which children feel physically and emotionally safe.
  • Strong role models and mentors.
  • Understanding what constitutes safety and what is acceptable behaviour.
  • Access to group-based activities that enhance safety and are led by strong guides and role models.
  • People who use violence are safe in their healing journey, in acknowledgement that they are also often victims of violence.

Aboriginal organisations and communities:

  • Recognise the unique safety considerations for children to enable them to thrive physically and emotionally are understood and their safety is seen as paramount.
  • Ensure immediate safety and basic needs are met for all victims including men, women, children and young people.
  • Support people who use violence to take responsibility and are accountable for their actions, and have access to culturally appropriate interventions and resources that provide understanding of the impact of family violence, including on children.
  • Provide access to culturally safe, informed supported that reflects Aboriginal cultural strengths, values and traditional wisdom and improves understandings of family violence and its impact on all family members.
  • Design programs and evaluations that demonstrate the importance of taking seriously the safety needs of communities.
  • Conduct risk assessments and develop safety and healing plans for Aboriginal people experiencing family violence preferably on first contact, to address immediate risks and ensure emotional wellbeing and safety.
  • Design and delivers culturally embedded programs that are holistic, and family focused when safe to do so.
  • Support Elders and community leaders to teach children and young people about respectful Aboriginal relationships.
  • Support Aboriginal workforce to build and share knowledge of the impact of family violence and healing approaches, including through peer support opportunities and activities that address vicarious trauma.
  • Provide non-Aboriginal workforce with cultural competence training and cultural mentoring to enable effective holistic practices.
  • Provide Aboriginal people including children and young people with safe places to meet, yarn, share knowledge and culture and feel and be safe.
  • Provide Aboriginal people including children and young people with access to a range of intervention approaches including group-based and cultural activities that enhance safety including after-hours responses.

Government:

  • Ensure that all funded holistic healing initiatives demonstrate effective approaches for keeping victims safe, ensuring people who use violence are accountable for their actions and include approaches to promote cultural safety.
  • Recognise that healing practices take time, and need to be diverse and flexible to allow individuals, families and communities to create their own outcomes and ensure safety along the journey for support.
  • Support Aboriginal workforce to build and share knowledge of the impact of family violence and healing approaches, including through peer support opportunities and activities that address vicarious trauma.
  • Fund and create opportunities for the Aboriginal workforce to build knowledge and resilience.

Healing can't happen if you don't feel safe ... that is why we go on Country. There is no need for fences, no cars going past. It is the safest place in the world for me. There is no danger for my kid - Research participant

Cultural safety is when you are with people you trust; you have empathy; they understand where you have come from; [you are] not in a threatening environment; [there are] no fixed attitudes or values, [people] don't apply their standards on you; [it is] where they can relate - Research participant

Reviewed 22 January 2020

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