Traditional healing the ‘key to Indigenous trauma’

19-Oct-2017

Renowned NT educator Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann (left) is part of a steering committee of local leaders who will guide trauma research at Nauiyu by PhD candidate Gavin Morris

Renowned NT educator Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann (left) is part of a steering committee of local leaders who will guide trauma research at Nauiyu by PhD candidate Gavin Morris


Indigenous elders and a Charles Darwin University researcher are investigating how traditional healing practices could be incorporated into mainstream health services, to address intergenerational trauma in a remote Northern Territory community.

The pioneering grassroots project at Nauiyu, about 220km southwest of Darwin, is the first of its kind in the NT, and one of only four Australian studies to explore Indigenous trauma and healing from a community perspective. 

PhD candidate Gavin Morris is about to interview around 20 adults from the small community on the Daly River to investigate their life stories. 

Gavin said research indicated that past events, including the arrival of Jesuit missionaries, the 1884 Copper Mine Massacre, and Australian Government policies – including Stolen Generations and the NT Intervention – continued to affect the people of Nauiyu. 

“Six generations on from European colonisation, trauma has resulted in a loss of connection to identity and culture, which can manifest in many ways, including substance abuse, violence and increased child, parent and family risk factors,” Gavin said.

“The primary purpose of this study is to empower Indigenous people and promote healing.” 

He said the community designed the research to hear people’s stories, privileging Indigenous voice and world views. 

“We will explore the potential benefits of constructing positive new life stories through collective sharing of the past,” he said.

Gavin said educating people about what happened before their time could help them understand why they felt and behaved a certain way, and be part of the healing process.

His research uses the spiritual practice of “Dadirri”, or deep listening, which is specific to the Daly River tribes and was distinguished globally by one of his research supervisors, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann. 

Ms Ungunmerr-Baumann was the first qualified Indigenous teacher to work in the NT, in 1975, and is a dedicated champion for young Indigenous people learning to balance life in traditional and Western worlds.