Hear our voices: Community development and working with Indigenous people experiencing trauma

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Introduction: Oppression resulting in soul wounding has afflicted Indigenous communities… Culture is part of the soul. As human beings, we are all part of a culture and not separate from it (Duran, Firehammer, and Gonzalez 2008, p. 288). IN THIS CHAPTER I describe both the personal and professional challenges that I have experienced in working in my community. I am both an Aboriginal academic and community member and here I share and discuss my experiences of working and living in a community for which suicide has become an ever-present and persistent concern. Using community development and participatory action research principles and processes, I provide a commentary on how I am working to improve mental health outcomes, both in my community and Indigenous Australian communities across the country, in particular reducing the incidence of suicide for Indigenous Australians. I have worked in higher education and in mental health for some 25 years and my approach has been one of promoting social justice and community engagement. I believe that we as Indigenous Australians are in a process of rapid change whereby we can now identify and challenge the consequences of colonisation, in terms of our own lives, our family histories and the social determinants (such as racism) that are very much a part of the dominant society. One of the most important and exciting phenomenom I have witnessed is the reclaiming of our cultures. Challenging history, society and power and reclaiming culture has informed my perspectives and work - it could be said that I take an anti-colonial standpoint intellectually. This chapter is structured around six sections. The first provides a personal narrative of my experiences. The second outlines the use of participatory action research in community development, while the third examines what is needed to create a culturally safe intervention for suicide. The fourth section describes the suicide prevention project that I was responsible for initiating in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, while the fifth section reviews the findings of our ultimate study, the Kimberley Empowerment Project. The sixth and final section details a way forward, outlining the important community development attributes required for working with Indigenous people traumatised through the experience of suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMia Mia Aboriginal Community Development
Subtitle of host publicationFostering cultural security
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781107741768
ISBN (Print)9781107414471
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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