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Torres Strait taking vital step towards healing
As the people of the Torres Strait embark on a healing journey, they do so with an eye to self-determination.
The recent launch of the Torres Strait and Kaurareg Aboriginal Peoples’ Healing Strategy is seen as a vital step towards addressing the colonisation-related trauma affecting Torres Strait communities. Healing Foundation CEO Richard Weston, a descendant of the Meriam people of the eastern Torres Strait, says the unique history of the Torres Strait means that a unique healing strategy was required.
“We developed the Strategy in partnership with locals only after conversations with over six hundred people,” Richard said.
“Government policies over many years had a lot of unintended consequences for communities here, and it means that the Strategy had to be developed specifically to deal with the impact of the trauma those policies brought.”
The Torres Strait and Kaurareg Aboriginal Peoples’ Healing Strategy includes supporting a plan to strengthen women’s leadership in the region, men’s healing programmes to help them address their issues in culturally sensitive ways, programmes and services for young people dealing with trauma, and the development of community healing teams to support and drive healing at a local level.
According to Luisa O’Connor, a descendant of the Kaurareg Aboriginal People, traditional owners of the Prince of Wales group, including Thursday Island (Waiben), the plan to increase leadership and governance skills in women is a key part of the Strategy and one which will lead to self-determination.
“To strengthen women’s leadership you have to look at the root cause of our issues,” Luisa said.
“Women were resettled and segregated, which affected our psyche and confidence to speak out. We need to work with local women to ensure they have the confidence to become leaders in government, business and in NGOs here.
“For the first time we have a woman mayor in the Torres Strait but it is challenging for her as some people still see her as a young woman and therefore not up to the job. Through education and support for women’s leadership ambitions we can change perceptions here and increase the welfare of the whole Torres Strait region.”
Before any of this can happen, though, Luisa says people need to learn about themselves.
“People need to get to know their history, their family. People won’t be strong leaders without knowing where they come from and being proud of that. And proud is another word for healing.”