Healing Foundation


This research outlines work undertaken by the Healing Foundation and Emerging Minds on a series of resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers working to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family mental health service providers and wellbeing experts came together to plan for developing and delivering culturally safe systems and resources through a process of Aboriginal led knowledge creation.

Key findings

  • There are not enough services for families and communities experiencing complex intergenerational trauma, this is partly due a limited number of skilled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners trained in trauma aware healing informed approaches that are grounded in culture along with a lack of culturally appropriate assessments.
  • An outline of the resources needed to addressing Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing were established, including: resources and messages that assist parents and services to understand neurobiology and the impact of trauma on the brain
  • Any resources developed need to work intergenerationally, be based on yarning and storytelling and need to cater different learning styles.
  • Resources for practitioners must consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of child development, include information relating to culturally age-appropriate milestones, and the impact environment has on childhood development.
  • The term ‘attachment’ is a Westernised term that does not fully describe the term ‘connection’ that is used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Westernised attachment model should be critiqued against a cultural model that explores cultural connectedness.

  Messages for practice

  • Practitioners need to have good understanding of social and emotional wellbeing
  • Organisations need to make sure they are providing enough support for their workers, addressing racism and providing ongoing supervision, training and evaluation.
  • Engagement through holistic, trauma aware healing informed programs and narrative based approaches is recommended; this works best work best when there is enough time devoted to scaffold and support the parent to safely talk about the problem story operating in their life.