Reflective Practice Consultations

Foot Steps to Healthy Families

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An image of aboriginal artwork.

'Foot Steps to Healthy Families' is a story of the journey of engaging and maintaining Aboriginal people/families into family therapy healing/practices to bring about strong and healthy individuals, families and communities. The painting highlights the need for more Indigenous therapists and also demands that current Aboriginal health workers be recognised for their often innate healing qualities that are also undervalued. The larger number of Aboriginal figures than non-Aboriginal figures has demonstrated this, which is in opposition to the current trend. The symbols within the outer rim of the circles depict complex family structures, which can include immediate, extended family and/or other community members. The figures inside the circles are the therapists/healers both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

The lone therapist/health worker who is not encompassed by symbolic people highlights the difficulty in engaging family into family therapy. This is partly due to a natural shyness of Aboriginal people and/or shame factor in acknowledging family dysfunction which can be further enabled through current organisational processes which are often time consuming and culturally void. The male/female figures in the two yellow circles represent elders/respected persons; this is recognisable by the more elaborate headdress. They are integral in overseeing and ensuring culturally safety and culturally sensitive practices within the therapeutic environment. This is fundamental to the long-term health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. The footsteps painted in random fashion shows the healing process in action and families coming together. This is the result of culturally appropriate Family Therapy in action.   

Artwork and story by Joanne Dwyer (2008) for the Indigenous Program Team

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