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Diploma brings healing to Indigenous communities


Sharlene King
6 May 2011
A diploma in trauma and recovery created in the wake of a murder of an Indigenous woman in a small rural Northern New South Wales town is proving a catalyst for healing.

Eight community workers from Boggabilla, just a few kilometres from the Queensland border, are graduating from Southern Cross University with a Diploma in Community Recovery.

“One of the big issues in Aboriginal communities is loss and grief but there’s not of work being done at a community-based level to tackle it,” said Judy Knox, a lecturer from the University’s Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

“Because we have such huge extended communities deaths are quite regular so you could have up to seven funerals a month.”

Pain runs deep for the townspeople still reeling from the untimely death of a 43-year-old Boggabilla woman in 2003. Her murder remains unsolved. After it happened Gnibi’s community crisis response team travelled to the town to help.

The Diploma in Community Recovery is similar to the Master of Indigenous Studies (Wellbeing) but is designed for community workers.

“So the non-professional person can gain skills from this course to be able to respond in their own communities in a therapeutic way.”

Among those stepping up to the podium on Saturday, May 7, to receive their diplomas are health clinic workers, community development officers and pre-school workers.

“In their jobs they tackle a whole range of things, like working with children, sexual assaults, drug and alcohol issues, loss and grief work, all really major issues.”

Ms Knox has strong family ties to Boggabilla.

“I’m over the moon actually that they’re the first pilot group in Australia.”

The Community Recovery diploma is a one year fulltime distance education course.

“These workers are getting the skills on how to work with people with their trauma and grief and it’s culturally appropriate. They adjust it to suit what’s going on in their own communities.”

The effects of trans-generational trauma have been well documented by former Gnibi director, Professor Judy Atkinson.

“We’ve pulled together Aboriginal Indigenous processes, plus we borrowed processes from other Indigenous groups around the world in combination with Western psychology. Government intervention just isn’t tackling it,” Ms Knox said.

“With this work we see changes within a day. This is a fast-tracking of sifting through layers and finding out what the trauma story is.”

Photo: Judy Knox, one of the Gnibi teachers. Media opportunity: Saturday, May 7, at 7.30 am. A breakfast is being held at SCU’s Lismore campus for Gnibi students, including the group from Boggabilla, before their graduation ceremony at 9.30 am.