Focuses on Families

Many parents we serve are feeling at the end of their rope. They are exhausted, discouraged, and tired of being blamed and misunderstood.  They are also scared for their children, and are often scared of their children.

The Boomerangs Parenting program is designed to give parents the capacity to work with their families and begin their journey to healing and a brighter future. The program involves bringing a small number of families together in a safe and neutral environment where each member of the family learn communication skills such that they are able to identify and understand their own needs and the needs of other family members.

With both children understanding the parent or parents and with the parent or parents understanding their child or children, the family unit as a whole can operate more functionally. This change provides the foundation from which children can learn and develop in a safe, mutually respectful and loving environment.

We know that parenting practice is learnt through our experience of being parented and by supportive customs, traditions and ways of life have been largely lost to our communities. Gunawirra has designed the camps to feel more like a traditional gathering. There has been trauma to our Aboriginal mothers over many years, and in this safe and neutral environment with their little children as a motivating factor they can face the “demons’ of their past. Many have suffered abuse and neglect as children or have had problems of substance abuse. They use the Camp and the ongoing therapy as a means of expressing their feelings, of working closely with their children, of supporting and empowering each other to stand up to abuse and violence in their own lives, and so preventing harm to themselves and their children in the future. This is not just a treatment of the present; this is protection and prevention for the future.

The camp allows a ‘holding’ environment and allows the facilitators a space to observe parent to parent interaction and parent to child interaction in a non threatening environment. It provides a culturally appropriate venue, while on the camp parents will be offered many therapy sessions to ease their internal psychic pain and give to their children the very best they can. Many have been part of the program for over two years and the reduction in distress and violation is obvious.

For these camps to function we need a variety of professionals to support them, including:

  • Aboriginal Perinatal Infant Mental Health Worker/therapist
  • Parent Infant Therapists
  • Childcare worker/s
  • Additional support for specific therapies and interventions, e.g. relaxation, massage and baby massage
  • Audiovisual person to take photos and videos that provide material for books and photo albums etc.

Books Binding Families is aimed at increasing families interactions with their children.Families are given photos taken on the camp to produce the books about “Beginning the Journey into a Secure Family” they make the books as a family mother, father and all children. The project provides experiences which make reading and sharing books more familiar and positive for parents and children, enhanced in children the emergent literacy skills of shared attention, co-learning and conversation and assists families to create their own books from low cost and culturally appropriate materials.

The overall goals of the programs are to:

  • Develop an understanding of the psychological problems which can affect their future lives. These parenting camps seek to extend and deepen the understanding of infant mental health, foetal and infant development and the importance of early relationships
  • Enhance the welfare and lifestyles of Aboriginal families by providing culturally appropriate camps/workshops that empower families to explore, strengthen, and make decisions for positive parenting outcomes.
  • Gain an increased understanding of the factors which promote healthy emotional development in pregnancy, in infants, pre-school age children and their families
  • Reflect on the traumatic effects of not only their own past but colonisation on the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population.

Aims of the programs for parents:

  • Assist in recognizing and being forgiving of their own problems often of mental health and other difficulties. Teaching the basics of attachment and why it matters to mother and infant
  • Increasing parent skills in observing parent/child interactions
  • Increasing capacity of the caregiver to recognize and sensitively respond to children’s needs in a positive instead of harmful way.
  • Provide a structured and caring environment for Aboriginal families, to enable them to participate and extend their knowledge on parenting
  • Strengthen and enhance parenting skills and community resources of Aboriginal parents and carers as a way of diminishing risk and harm to self and others.
  • Establish Aboriginal cultural and spiritual values, which serve to diminish risk of harm to themselves their children and others.

Aims for the children:

  • Feel less anger and disturbance with their parents
  • Become more securely attached to their parents
  • Enjoy more happiness with their parents
  • Turn to their parents for help when in trouble
  • Get along better in all that they do
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Trust the people they love
  • Know how to be kind to those around them.