Confirmation of Candidature PhD by Research - Yen Keng Eva San (Eva San)

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Presenter:  Yen Keng Eva San (Eva San)

Date: Dec 12, 2019

Time: 9:30am to 10:30am

Contact person:  The Office of Research & Innovation (ORI), CDU
T: 08 8946 6548

Location:  Savanna Room, Yellow 1.2.48, Casuarina Campus, Charles Darwin University

Developing Indigenous knowledges for a creative therapies course in Australian higher education

Mrs Yen Keng Eva San (Eva San)
Doctor of Philosophy Candidate
College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society
Charles Darwin University

The legacy of colonialism has affected the discourse of mental health in creative therapies and interrupted how knowledge is represented when educating students. To produce future creative arts therapists that are culturally sensitive critical thinkers, there is an urgent need to integrate Indigenous knowledge into the curriculum as a means of decolonising and securing the future of Indigenous knowledge of healing. Creative therapies (art, music, drama, dance/movement, and play) curriculum in Australia tends to be dominated by Western philosophical traditions. This is problematic as therapist graduates become susceptible in developing culturally inappropriate treatment for Aboriginal Australians, who continue to experience deeply entrenched racism, oppression, cultural wounding and trauma that were passed down intergenerationally. There are currently no existing creative therapies postgraduate courses in the nation that are informed by Indigenous ways of knowing. This PhD research explores how Indigenous knowledges could generate different Australian approaches to creative therapies courses and how it could challenge neo-colonialism at Charles Darwin University. The project examines Indigenous concepts about illness, wellness, healing as well as Aboriginal identity model and how it differentiates from Western psychodynamic knowledges. Attempts at synergy between Indigenous healing approaches and psychotherapeutic theories will be scrutinized where it safeguards and encourages Indigenous people’s self-determination and sovereignty. This pioneering effort reflects the significance of investigating the tremendous complexities and responsibilities in the task of developing curricula materials that must negotiate the politics of representing different knowledge systems for the pursuit of social justice and inclusivity. The concept and practice of Dadirri, or deep listening will be used to ensure research integrity where Indigenous voices are respected and honoured. This paper will also be informed by the frameworks of constructivist grounded theory, critical race theory and social constructivism to decolonize research.

Eva’s chequered career path involved painting, teaching art in an early childhood setting and facilitating art therapy as an art therapist for diverse population. Through her work, she has had the privilege to use art as therapy to serve elderly with dementia, people with different abilities, children with special needs and teenagers from troubled homes. Her multi-disciplinary academic background has seen her making a shift from Women’s studies (Bachelor of Arts) to literary studies (Masters in English Literature) and finally finding great resonance in being an art therapy practitioner and researcher- where her passion in art, healing and research are synergised. Her personal and professional journey are intimately interwoven and were propelled by the quest for a deeper sense of wellbeing. Having experienced powerful catharsis in using art for her own wellness and seeing the positive impact it had on the different communities she worked with, all these compelled her to integrate theoretical aspirations and practical demands in her current work exploring Indigenous knowledges within creative therapies, fuelled by an ethos of social justice and inclusivity.