Indigenous People and Culture

The animating spirit of all Gunawirra projects is the creating of a space in which to listen, a space where the voices of traumatized children could be heard, in a way that gives those voices relevance. Gunawirra would also have a space to hear the “voices of the parents”; and a space in which to hear the voices of the teachers.We wanted to develop through that process called “deep soul listening” present since ancient Aboriginal times in the Dadirri circle, where the community sat together, listening to the pain of another, in every program.

This space for listening is the template of all Gunawirra work.

Gunawirra is predicated on two significant gifts from ancient Aboriginal peoples: The Dreaming and Dadirri.

The concept of The Dreaming. In the ancient contents of The Dreaming Aboriginal people imbued their external world and events with meaning from their internal world; they created boundaries for this meaning; symbols for it.

The most ancient form of treating trauma known to every Aboriginal group as Dadirri, or for modern Aboriginal people, ‘healing circle’. We try in Gunawirra to understand the way meaning is stripped away as a result of trauma. Ancient Aboriginal culture healed trauma through a process called Dadirri, a ritualised form of ‘deep listening’, not an ordinary witnessing but an empathic psychic action, now known to the modern world as psychotherapy.

We in Gunawirra are aware how the Aboriginal people have been cut off from access to aspects of their culture that might have helped them to accommodate and recover from traumatic aspects of current culture. After our many years of individually working with young Aboriginal mothers and their infants and preschool children, we gather together in Gunawirra in the hope that our psychoanalytic thinking may be approaching a new way of repairing this loss. We workers observe psychoanalytic therapy as symbolising in much the same way as The Dreaming.

From The Dreaming and Dadirri we gain ideas of how trauma was treated and the roots of how we treat trauma today. We in Gunawirra attempt to give understanding of the catastrophe resulting from dislocation from culture and loss of continuity through stolen children, community, and land. The tragedy that has ensued leaves our Aboriginal  people devoid of protection from within their own psyche and the current world they live in.

Central to all our work at Gunawirra is the question: Can our psychoanalytic thinking, with its focus on the symbolic, with its use of the ancient form of Dadirri and The Dreaming help restore the internal world for our Aboriginal mothers and infants and our preschool children?