Marumali Healing Program
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles

Overview

Practice focus

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing; support services for the Aboriginal Stolen Generations; improve the quality of service provision to Aboriginal people.

Delivered by

The Marumali Healing Program is delivered by Winangali-Marumali (a private business).

Location(s)

Winangali-Marumali is based in Cairns, however the program is delivered throughout Australia.

Issue being addressed

The program aims to support Indigenous people who have experienced trauma as a result past removal policies. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008) found that in 2008, eight percent (26,900 people) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had been removed from their natural family with the proportion of people who had personally experienced removal being greater in older age groups.

The NATSISS statistics highlight that, compared to the non-Indigenous population, removal from natural family has been associated with higher rates of emotional distress, depression, poorer physical health and higher rates of smoking and use of illicit substances. It has also been associated with lower educational and employment outcomes. These consequences of separation not only affect those who personally experience removal, but can be trans-generational, impacting on children, families and communities (for more information see: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/lookup/4704.0Chapter470Oct+2010)

Service type

Aboriginal-led, culturally appropriate and nationally accredited education and training services for Aboriginal people experiencing trauma as a result of the Stolen Generations.

Target population

Aboriginal people and services providers working with Aboriginal people.

Aims and objectives

Established in 2000, the Marumali program aims to increase the quality of support available for Aboriginal survivors of removal policies. The program aims to enable all Aboriginal people affected by past removal policies to identify and understand their trauma, the stages of healing from trauma and provide advice on the kinds of support they may need on their 'healing journey'. The program also aims to improve service delivery by providing advice to service providers on how to work effectively with Aboriginal people affected by intergenerational trauma.

Program basis

The idea for the program began after Lorraine Peeters, who was forcibly removed from her family and institutionalised at 4 years old, experienced a 're-triggering' of the trauma of being removed. After dealing with the initial emotional distress, Lorraine felt empowered to observe, study and understand her own journey of healing in order to support others. She developed the Marumali ‘Journey of Healing’ Model for dealing with the prolonged trauma associated with removal of children from their families and communities. She presented the model at a mental health conference in 1999 and received strong Aboriginal community and government support for her to develop the model so it could be used to support Aboriginal family reconnection services (e.g. Link Up) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations. As a result Lorraine developed the original five-day program to train Aboriginal counsellors to support people impacted by past removal.

The current program is based on the original 'Journey of Healing’ model which focuses on improving people's ability to cope by helping them move from first experiencing a triggering event, to understanding it then moving forward with their lives based on a renewed sense of identity. The program is delivered in a culturally safe manner by Lorraine Peeters and her daughter Shaan Hamann. They use their personal experience of trauma as a means to build supportive relationships with participants as they work through the programs emotionally difficult content.

While the program varies for each workshop and community, it includes the following topics: recognising triggers, accepting grief and loss, talking about the issue, facing demons, returning home, reclaiming the future and reflecting on identity and strength. It is delivered using short presentations, case studies, individual and group discussions.
The program has since expanded and been tailored in response to different client's needs. The current formats are:

  • A five-day program for Aboriginal service providers to empower them to provide safe, appropriate and effective support to survivors of past removal policies. It includes strategies to respect and deal with complex issues of trauma and to guide people on their own healing journey. There is also a two-day risk management program for Aboriginal service providers focussed on the risks and protective factors associated with each stage of a person's trauma recovery. This two-day program forms the second part of the nationally accredited course.
  • A five-day program for Indigenous men and women within correctional facilities
  • A two-day program for non-Indigenous people working with Indigenous people impacted by past removal.
  • A youth program, based on the same model, that is often delivered to young people in out-of-come care or youth at risk; and
  • Tailored programs

Cultural relevance

Local community context

While the program's content was not developed in response to one particular community, it was derived from Lorraine Peeters’ experience of past removal practices, whose story of removal and trauma recovery has resonated with numerous Aboriginal people and communities in Australia.

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

As described above, Aboriginal people have been involved in identifying the need, development and implementation of the program. The benefits of this high level of Aboriginal control over the design and delivery of the program have been:

  • it has been considered to be genuine and credible as its based on real experience of an Indigenous survivor of past removal
  • it has facilitated relationship building with participants
  • it is deemed culturally appropriate and designed for Indigenous people
  • it has been an example of empowerment for participants
Cultural practices and materials

The program managers ensure the program is culturally appropriate for the local area. To do this, they only work where they have been invited by the local community, work closely with a local person to build relationships and research the local history and community in order to tailor the program as much as possible.

Evaluation

Evaluation status

An independent evaluation of the Marumali Program was completed in 2014. The evaluation was funded by the Healing Foundation.

Link to evaluation

The evaluation is not publicly available, though was analysed as part of preparing this practice profile.

Evaluation details

The evaluation was developed and planned through a collaboration between Shaan Hamann, the Healing Foundation and the external evaluation team. It aimed to:

  • assess the quality of three of the programs (these were: the five day Aboriginal service provider program, the two day non-Indigenous service provider program and the inmate program);
  • describe the impact of the program on its target audience;
  • describe the strengths of the program; and
  • describe its limitations and areas for improvement

The evaluation drew on a mix of existing organisational data and new research, including the following data collections methods:

  • organisational documents review;
  • analysis of previously completed workshop evaluation forms from between 2002-12;
  • online survey completed by 59 previous workshop participants;
  • two case studies of previous participants; and
  • interview with the program's key staff (Lorraine and Shaan)

The key findings from the evaluation of the program included:

  • Between 2000-2012, 173 workshops had been delivered to 2032 participants, across all of Australia. The majority of participants were female and anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority were Aboriginal and most had a family member who had been affected by past removal policies.
  • Results from the workshop evaluations, survey of past participants and the two case studies all confirmed the program had several strengths including: participants were satisfied with the program's content; increased awareness of the past removal practices; it had increased understanding of their clients needs; it increased awareness of intergenerational trauma; and what participants had learnt had been used in their workplaces.

The anecdotal evidence also confirmed that the program had promoted participants' own personal development and self-awareness and increased sense of cultural identity.

The areas for improvements identified by the evaluation included enhancing content (e.g. through music and artwork); lengthening the workshop duration; providing a safe and therapeutic venue (e.g. access to the bush) and having some support to deal with the personal emotions stirred up by the program.

The evaluation found that the program builds individual, family and community capacity; was developed to address issues in the local community and that the workshops were based on trauma informed practice. However, the evaluation did recommend actions to:

  • improve community awareness of the program through a review of current marketing practices;
  • improve access through establishing partnerships with other organisations to deliver it in a variety of settings; and
  • strengthen the ongoing monitoring and evaluation practices of the organisation.

These suggestions have since been considered and some have been integrated into the program.

Effectiveness

Most effective aspect

The evaluation and the program staff highlight that the most effective aspect of the program in achieving success is that participants can relate to the experience of Lorraine Peeters and how her story can be used as a model to dealing with the trauma caused by the past removal from family.

Other evidence

Other evidence describing the Marumali program and its effectiveness can be found here:
http://aboriginal.telethonkids.org.au/media/54847/working_together_full_book.pdf
http://aboriginal.telethonkids.org.au/media/673998/wt-part-6-chapt-29-final.pdf

Resourcing

The program was initially funded by the former Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in the Commonwealth Government's Department of Health. Once this ceased, the workshops were delivered based on a fee for service.
Other sources of funding include Healing Foundation (Youth Workshops) and Corrections Victoria.

Evidence base and opportunities

Evidence about trauma-informed services can be found here:
http://www.aihw.gov.au/uploadedFiles/ClosingTheGap/Content/Publications/2013/ctg-rs21.pdf

Other evidence about mental health and wellbeing programs for Indigenous people can be found here:
http://www.aihw.gov.au/uploadedFiles/ClosingTheGap/Content/Our_publications/2014/ctgc_ip12.pdf

 

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