Victoria University researchers are collecting stories of incarcerated Aboriginal women, or those at risk, for a project that draws on their cultural practices to build resilience, connection and identity.
Moondani Balluk Indigenous academic unit director Karen Jackson says Blak Women’s Healing reflects VU’s strong links with Aboriginal communities and agencies in Melbourne’s west. It was one of 12 projects awarded funding by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Research Exchange.
The project will engage incarcerated Aboriginal women at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre – many who have children in child protection – and women in the Footprints for Success project, designed for Aboriginal women seeking assistance to keep their children at home and in school.
“We will try to identify the narrative of the places in women’s lives where their worlds fell apart so we can understand the pathways to prison, to bad health, to emotional and physical abuse, to observance by Child Protection, and recidivism in the criminal justice system,” she said.
Blak Women’s Healing will build on growing international research showing that Aboriginal people recovering from historical and present-day trauma from the systematic dispossession of their culture can benefit from cultural practices embedded into their daily lives.
“Aboriginal people in the west of Melbourne have expressed a desire to understand the impact of dispossession and dispersal on their identity and community.
"This project provides opportunities for them to deepen their own understandings of cultural practices and contemporary ways to engage in healing,” said Ms Jackson.
VU’s research team will facilitate programs that speak to, and about, the women’s life trajectories, their family, extended family, community, and Country connections. This includes activities to build – or rebuild – relationships, gather stories, and create art, culminating in a public exhibition.
Blak Women’s Healing is also aimed at enhancing the capacity of partner agencies to respond more sensitively to engaging and working with Aboriginal women, including developing appropriate training and education for community workers.