Breaking The Cycle of Trauma - Koori Parenting What Works For Us

  • Dr. Graham Gee Intergenerational Health Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  • Raelene Lesniowska Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Melbourne Australia (2012-2018)
  • Dr. Radhika Santhanam-Martin Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Melbourne Australia (2012-2018) ; 6Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  • Catherine Chamberlain Associate Professor, Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; 7Indigenous Health Equity Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Keywords: Koori, Aboriginal, parenting, healing, intergenerational trauma

Abstract

Objective: To develop an understanding of parenting strategies used by Aboriginal Australian parents impacted by colonisation and other forms of adversity to break cycles of trauma within families.

Design: “Yarning circles” involving qualitative interviews with six Aboriginal parents were conducted. Parents who identified as having experienced childhood histories of trauma and historical loss were asked about parenting strategies that helped them to break cycles of intergenerational trauma. Interviews were transcribed and independently coded by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal psychologists who worked for an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Results: Parents identified over 100 strategies associated with parenting and breaking cycles of trauma. Some strategies aligned well with research on the protective effects of safe, stable, nurturing relationships. Other strategies focused upon domains of culture, community, and history, and addressed issues such as family violence, colonisation, and the intergenerational links between trauma and parenting. The strategies were collated into a community resource that could be used by other Aboriginal parents.

Conclusion: Parental histories of colonisation and interpersonal and intergenerational trauma can have a significant impact on kinship networks and community environments that Aboriginal parenting practices are embedded within. Parents who identified with having managed to break cycles of trauma reported using a wide range of successful parenting strategies. These strategies serve a diversity of functions, such as parenting approaches that aim to directly influence children’s behaviour and foster wellbeing, manage family and community conflict, and manage parental histories of trauma and trauma responses in ways that mitigate the impact on their children.

Author Biographies

Dr. Graham Gee, Intergenerational Health Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

Dr Graham Gee is originally from Darwin. His Aboriginal-Chinese grandfather was born near Belyuen, and his mother’s heritage is Celtic. Graham is a Senior Research Fellow and clinical psychologist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne. From 2008-2018, he was employed as a psychologist at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. In 2019, Graham was awarded a National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship and he received the 2018 NHMRC Indigenous Research Rising Star Award. His research involves validating the Aboriginal Resilience and Recovery Questionnaire (Gee, 2016), improving models of mental health care, and investigating healing and recovery from complex trauma among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the lifespan.

Raelene Lesniowska, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Melbourne Australia (2012-2018)

Raelene Lesniowska is a Melbourne-based Clinical Psychologist at Ancora Psychology and a Clinical Facilitator of the Caring Dads (therapeutic family violence) program at KidsFirst Australia. She has seven years’ experience working as a policy advisor and project officer for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services’ Aboriginal Health Branch and six years working as a project coordinator and psychologist at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service Family Counselling Services, specialising in parenting and trauma. She was the coordinator of the Trauma and Education Project of which the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ research was a part of. She assisted with the research design and administration, data analyses and translation of the findings into community resources. Her previous research includes a published quantitative study regarding maternal fatigue, parenting self-efficacy, and over-reactive discipline (Lesniowska, Gent, & Watson, 2015) and her qualitative Master’s thesis regarding urban Aboriginal families’ experiences of positive involvement of Aboriginal men in parenting (2015, unpublished).

Dr. Radhika Santhanam-Martin, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Melbourne Australia (2012-2018) ; 6Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

Dr Radhika Santhanam-Martin is a clinical psychologist who works in the field of trauma. She has three decades of experience in therapeutic practice in institutions in India, Canada and Australia. Currently, she works in Melbourne, Australia in collaboration with organisations that work with refugees, asylum seekers, diverse communities and Indigenous families.  Her major interests include ways of working with cultures, attachment theory and therapeutic work, narrative methods of practice and enhancing reflective capacity between workers through peer-professional supervision.

Catherine Chamberlain, Associate Professor, Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; 7Indigenous Health Equity Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Catherine Chamberlain is an Associate Professor and Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow at the Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne.  She is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway people (Tasmania) and a Registered Midwife and Public Health researcher with over 25 years’ experience.  This has included work in international health and within remote, rural and urban Australian settings across health service, government and university sectors.  Her current research aims to improve health equity during pregnancy, birth and early parenting. She is currently Principal Investigator for a large multi-disciplinary multi-jurisdictional study funded by the Lowitja Institute and National Health and Medical Research Council – Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future – which aims to co-design perinatal awareness, recognition, assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents experiencing complex childhood trauma.

Published
2020-12-03
How to Cite
Gee, G., Lesniowska, R., Santhanam-Martin, R., & Chamberlain, C. (2020). Breaking The Cycle of Trauma - Koori Parenting What Works For Us. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 15(2), 45-66. Retrieved from https://fpcfr.journals.publicknowledgeproject.org/index.php/FPCFR/article/view/471
Section
Articles