Art making not only tells a story, it enacts an experience. It is easier for a child to talk about an image than about him or herself.


Art as a Medium for Healing Trauma in NSW Preschools

The Gunawirra Art Therapy Program has two main objectives:

  • to act as an emotional healing and educational support for the children and their mothers who participate in the program and
  •  to develop and refine a model, including a ‘train the teacher’ component that can be replicated in country schools and our preschools for Aboriginal teachers.

This program consists of:

  • 8 group therapy sessions for Aboriginal preschoolers and school children from traumatised backgrounds, to relieve their suffering and
  • 8 sessions for their parents to relieve domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and sexual abuse and poverty.

Project details

  • These sessions use art as a medium for healing.
  •  The programs are carried out by two art therapists and one Aboriginal artist and specialist. The Art Therapists have a particular experience in the field of childhood trauma and work alongside our Aboriginal cultural advisor and artist.
  •  During the sessions with the parents and with the children, our Aboriginal artist, Graham Toomey, will teach participants about art and Aboriginal symbols and techniques, and create the space for them to create art stories about ‘home’ and about totems. In parallel, we will hold weekly Art Therapy sessions for the children’s mothers. A special Aboriginal worker with skills in photography and filming will take film and photos of the sessions.
  •  Both the children and the parents will be supported on this journey.
  •  The small size of the groups will facilitate the intimacy and focus that this sensitive work requires.
  •  It is researched and supervised clinically for each session. All the sessions will be transcribed for purposes of Research and analysis. We will have a qualitative study of transcribed material, questionnaires of parents, teachers and professional staff before, during and after the research and these will be analysed.
  •  As with all the programs of Gunawirra the main objective is to develop and refine a model, including a ‘train the teacher’ component that can be replicated in country schools and preschools for Aboriginal teachers.


Evaluation of our Art Therapy Program

Denise Lynch, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Social Work and Policy Studies Program at the Faculty of Education and Social Work,University of Sydney is currently evaluated our Art Therapy program with Aboriginal preschool kids. For more information on this evaluation report please go to our research page.