July 05, 2011
“For the future of our children is family.” Mr Lewis O’Brien
“Children need to know that they are part of a journey that began over 40,000 years ago; they need to know what the journey tracks were and where they fit into that journey. We are part of rocks and the river; no Aboriginal child should have that taken away from them.” Ms Sharron Willliams, CEO Aboriginal Family Support Services
Thinking child, Thinking family, Thinking community, Thinking culture, Thinking country....Building positive and respectful relationships with all partners........
Child cultural, physical and emotional safety paramount......Enable families and communities.....Child Protection and Culture at Centre ..... enable families to drive whole process........
Aboriginal community engaged and consulted in all aspects of service provision.....Service of excellence – being thorough and leading the way in provision of culturally appropriate and sensitive service.
The above words are the principles upon which a new Healing Centre in Adelaide will be established. This is a wonderful new partnership between the South Australian Province of the Sisters of St Joseph and the Aboriginal Family Support Service (AFSS). AFSS and Sisters of St Joseph have formed this partnership to provide a live-in program in a safe and homely environment where Aboriginal families with Child Protection issues have time and place to heal as a family unit.
Sister Kenise Neill, a Sister of St Joseph and a Senior Manager with Aboriginal Family Support Services has shared her reflections on this new venture: "As a Sister of St Joseph I believe the Sisters of St Joseph and Aboriginal Family Support Services partnership is in response to the underlying trauma from the process of colonisation and subsequent disconnection from culture that continues to impact on the families and communities. This partnership will support families to provide safe and nurturing environments for their children.
The Healing Centre is an opportunity to develop a new and different service that will provide Aboriginal families the opportunity to keep their children with them as they, in the context of community, undertake a healing journey. The issues to be addressed are often profound and debilitating including loss of identity, loss of traditional cultural, community and familial roles and experiences and feelings of humiliation, shame, rejection and abandonment."
Kenise acknowledges that this new venture is based on a solid foundation given the many Josephite Sisters since the time of Mary MacKillop, who have worked tirelessly in Congregational organisations that have worked with children and families. Kenise said, “As a child protection worker I recognize the most predominant form of abuse and neglect confirmed for Aboriginal children is neglect.
Neglect is often confirmed as a direct result of poverty, overcrowding, inadequate shelter and lack of basic services such as access to adequate and fresh food and lack of transport. For example there are many people and communities who have no access to mental health and/or therapeutic and healing programs. Our intention is to provide a holistic service that will work with and for families and communities to heal the underlying causes resulting in children being removed from their family and culture over generations."
Kenise went on to say: "On a daily basis I am humbled and stand in awe when I consider the inner strength and courage it takes to undertake the journey of healing. I also know and have witnessed that the healing journey will only come from deep within each person and we are in the privileged position of providing resources and an environment for self healing to happen. People have enormous potential to heal in an environment of love, tenderness, compassion and care. The Healing Centre will be a place of sacred and cultural healing and we are privileged to be part of this project."