Professor Caroline Atkinson and Danielle Cameron, a research associate, shared a powerful presentation on how Australian Indigenous communities healed trauma through informal weaving and yarning circles.
In 2022 parts of eastern Australia faced devastating floods that caused fatalities and destroyed infrastructure that is still being rebuilt today. Communities already dealing with complex traumas had another layer added to it with the catastrophic Northern Rivers flooding.
For the impacted communities, their healing journey didn't stem from a clinical or formalized approach. Healing was rooted in human connections – connections based on trust and faith in each other to create culturally safe spaces to be open.
The efficacy of building connections to create a sense of belonging, which can mitigate and prevent trauma, was already documented after earlier floods impacted the region in 2007. These connections aim at joining the head and the heart – to acknowledge faith not only in the earth but also in each other.
One way of building these connections was through informal yarning and weaving circles that brought people who suffered shared traumas together in a culturally safe space.
These informal circles had no fixed hierarchy and were freewheeling, deformalized and decentralized. Termed “educare," they were, and still are, a place to feel safe and nurtured. Whereas a Western clinical approach would ask “prove you've been impacted," the circles allowed people to speak and express themselves openly without fear of being judged. In the circles, participants knew they belonged, had similarities, and that they were important.
Following the presentation, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions, but most who were given the microphone spoke in appreciation for the presenters sharing their knowledge and wisdom.
The thread that united this presentation about weaving and yarning – and the audience response to it – was the resiliency of Indigenous peoples, especially in trusting and believing in their culture and protocol to lead them on their healing journey.