Nurturing the wellbeing of Aboriginal youth

Episode 163 May 13, 2024 00:25:53
Nurturing the wellbeing of Aboriginal youth
Emerging Minds Podcast
Nurturing the wellbeing of Aboriginal youth

May 13 2024 | 00:25:53


Show Notes

In this compelling podcast episode, join us as we explore the vital importance of including Aboriginal youth voices in mental health discussions. Through the heartfelt narratives of Kahli Regan and Tannielle McHugh, two inspiring young Aboriginal voices, you’ll gain profound insights into the challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and the transformative power of cultural connection. Discover the significance of fostering genuine relationships, acknowledging intergenerational trauma, and amplifying the resilience, creativity and self-determination inherent in Aboriginal youth. Journey with us towards a future where practitioners, communities and individuals all actively contribute to the holistic wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: The youth, they know what they're kind of dealing with. They're the best person to be asking about. They could be our next elders coming through and we need to support them through their childhood, their adolescence, even through adult years, and that, and we need to nurture that. So we're giving them the skills to be able to pass that down and continue keeping the strong identity, our strong culture alive. [00:00:26] Speaker B: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast. [00:00:31] Speaker C: In this insightful podcast, we speak with Carly Regan and Tenille McHugh, two inspiring voices advocating for the wellbeing of aboriginal young people in Australia. With a deep connection to their culture, Carly and Tenille share the importance of active listening, understanding and incorporating indigenous knowledge into research and mental health practices. Welcome and thank you for joining me today. Kali and Tenil, would you mind introducing yourselves? [00:00:58] Speaker A: I'm Karlie. I'm a Wango woman from Kalgoorlie. I grew up there until I was about eight and moved to Perth and have lived here ever since. [00:01:07] Speaker D: My name is Tenille. I'm a Bari woman from Arialang community, also known as one armed twang community. I've lived most of my schooling years in Perth, but I've been back and forth to the community. It's very tropical. We've got a lot of beaches there that are crystal clear. I've heard that it's pretty much the north version of Esperance and we have a lot of islands around there, but it's very remote. Yeah, it's a very small community as well. [00:01:33] Speaker C: And your community, Carly? [00:01:34] Speaker D: Basically hot. [00:01:38] Speaker A: But it's stunning. Once the sunset hits the plains, you've got the beautiful, absolutely beautiful red skies to match, like the salt lakes and that. [00:01:49] Speaker C: Did you want to tell me a little bit about what you're doing at the moment? So how we came into this conversation? [00:01:54] Speaker A: So I'm currently studying honours here at UwA in psychology and I'm working with the School of Indigenous Studies as well as the School of Psychological Sciences, doing my thesis on cultural safety within mental health services. It's definitely been a personal journey and learning a lot about not necessarily psychology and cultural practices, but it's also been. I've been learning about my own experiences as well and like kind of reflecting and going, okay. I can kind of see how other people do have like the same experiences in a way. And it's been like really validating when I never really had a lot of that validation. [00:02:35] Speaker C: I understand that you are involved in an aboriginal youth reference group at University of Western Australia. Can you explain what the reference group is? For and its purpose. [00:02:44] Speaker D: The reference group was created to get the indigenous psych students together to be able to talk about any issues or concerns we have with some of the units or if there's anything that we think should change. Just a safe space to be able to talk about it. After my studies, I'm interested in IO psychology, industrial organization psychology. I'm interested in working with a lot of Amal in the workplace, like in large businesses. I want to be able to help them with their mental side, being able to put up with their work life balance and their personal. There's not a lot of cultural understanding in a workplace. Me being an indigenous person in the workplace, I can provide that support for them because I can understand their experience. And rather than them having to talk to the big boss, he'll probably just, you know, go through one ear and out the other. But yeah, I can provide that cultural safety for them. [00:03:49] Speaker C: So what does cultural safety look like in an organisation? [00:03:52] Speaker D: Oh, well, it's still fairly new at this point, but my idea is just to. Just for them to be able to feel comfortable as an indigenous person in a workplace that's, you know, dominated by non indigenous people. It's for them to feel safe or heard, really, because a lot of their problems they bring from home or that non indigenous people won't understand what they're talking about half the time. Yeah. [00:04:20] Speaker C: So young people, what would you say is the biggest challenge for aboriginal people today? [00:04:26] Speaker A: Again, like the stigma and racism, discrimination and that that's still so present and again, coming up to the, like, coming up to the voice referendum in that it's just becoming so much more apparent and a lot of young people are seeing a lot of these stories and like division and people not wanting people to have a voice, which is a bit. Yeah. As it's belittling and it makes you not want to kind of stand up. [00:04:54] Speaker D: And it affects their identity. [00:04:56] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:04:58] Speaker D: Seeing all this negative stuff going around, it makes them feel like they don't want to voice or tell anyone that they're aboriginal because they're afraid of the backlash. Being an indigenous person, how might that. [00:05:13] Speaker C: Stop aboriginal young people from accessing services? [00:05:16] Speaker A: Well, I guess that there's already that the precedence of people expecting to receive the, like the stigma, like the discrimination and that when they go into services because I guess they don't know whether or not they're going to be accepting the young people's identity. Or again, as you were saying, like what their struggles, being able to know what they're currently going through, what they've been through what even the parents have kind of been through, and actually understanding a lot of the. Again, the intergenerational trauma and, yeah, I guess that's a big thing. Even a lot of adults in that also kind of face. [00:05:55] Speaker D: Yeah, I guess for these young people, they're too afraid to voice their opinions because they don't feel safe, they don't feel connected with the person they're speaking to. So being able to give them a voice allows them to share the issues they're facing or if there's anything they want to learn about, even, you know, not just focus on the negative stuff, just be able to help them build that identity. [00:06:17] Speaker C: It's disheartening to hear how the expectations of stigma and discrimination already loom over young people seeking support. Building a safe space for them to voice their opinions seems crucial. I'm curious, in this age of social media, what impact could this have? [00:06:34] Speaker A: Horrible, horrible impact. A lot of it is really negative. And again, it does, like, affect a lot of people's self esteem, their identity, how they. They believe they're perceived within the community and not necessarily indigenous community, but in general, populist kind of thing. But I think social media can also be used in, like, the positive kind of light, too, and give that kind of platform for people to feel like they do have their voice and be able to be heard. More so than hopefully, the positive kind of outweigh the negative kind of thing. [00:07:11] Speaker D: Yeah, I guess a lot of these negative news, it affects their behavior in terms of, you know, drugs and alcohol, because nowadays it's being seen as normal. It's common to drink. You know, that's something you need to do as a young person. Drugs isn't as bad. And then all these negative news, it kind of just reinforces that behavior, you know, and there's no support with that. [00:07:35] Speaker C: So what advice would you give to people that go on social media and will troll and make racist comments? How would you address the harm they inflict on young people and emphasize the impact of their actions? [00:07:46] Speaker A: I guess a lot of us kind of, like, think about it as your own kids, regardless. Like, would you talk to your own kids like that? [00:07:53] Speaker D: Yeah, there's really not much we can change about social media, but I guess just. Just learn to understand people better before you say something that you have no idea about, especially young people, because a lot of people are struggling these days. The issues they bring up on social media could be completely different to what's going on in their real life. [00:08:16] Speaker C: So what advice would you give a non aboriginal practitioner that has an aboriginal young person coming in to see them, what would you say would be important for them to know? [00:08:25] Speaker A: To listen, like openly listen without kind of interjecting, just listen to their story. Aboriginal people are the storytellers. We've been telling stories for 65,000 years. We are basically raised on the stories of our ancestors, the stories of our land, and basically everything. It helps us give an understanding of. Of our way of life and who we are as people. And I think a lot of practitioners need to also understand that and realize that nothing is going to be like a one kind of blanket fix. No mob is the same as another mob. And, yeah, again, we need to listen. They need to listen to their own personal story for their own personal struggles, their own family's kind of struggles as well. Before even attempting to say, oh, there's something wrong. [00:09:18] Speaker D: Yeah. Like, rather than assuming a solution, listen to them first and then provide the solution based on what they said. [00:09:27] Speaker C: What would it look like for a young person if they felt really comfortable? What would it look and feel like if they were a really great practitioner that was doing the right thing? [00:09:37] Speaker D: I think just the relationship itself, it would feel more like I'm talking to a family member, you know, like, hey, sis, what now, sis? Or, hey, brother, or what now, uncle? You know, that's what it is. Building that relationship. That report. [00:09:52] Speaker A: Definitely wouldn't get it in the first session. [00:09:55] Speaker D: No, it's definitely. [00:09:57] Speaker A: It takes time, especially if, I guess we're amazing at reading body language. So the second that a young person might come in and notice that you're sitting there with your arms crossed or something and you just go, nah, not dealing. [00:10:10] Speaker D: He's not interested in me. He's not going to talk about it. [00:10:12] Speaker A: So definitely being like the open, warm presence and that is so helpful. [00:10:20] Speaker C: What are some of the other things that they might be able to do to build on that relationship? What does that environment look like? [00:10:26] Speaker A: Definitely asking about their background and asking who their mob is, what their country, what's in their community, what do they love about their, like, country? And. [00:10:36] Speaker D: Yeah, yeah, just have a yarn with them. Introduce them to the yarning circle. That's the best way to get to know someone. [00:10:42] Speaker C: Absolutely. Building a connection by delving into their background and understanding their connection to countries. Pivotal. Why is it genuinely crucial to incorporate the perspectives of youth in programs and services? [00:10:55] Speaker D: Because it's their future. You can't help them unless you guarantee that this future is safe. You know, that they feel comfortable. There's something to look forward to. Rather than a short term solution, we can build a long term solution for them. [00:11:11] Speaker A: And they also, the youth, they know what they're kind of dealing with as well. They're the best person to be asking about their kind of problems and what they're dealing with. But again, they're basically, they could be our next elders coming through, and we need to support them through their childhood, their adolescence, even through adult years, and that, because then probably they're going to be the guidance for the next lot of mob that do come through, and we need to nurture that. So it's not necessarily dealing with every generation that kind of comes through. We're giving them the skills and that as well, to be able to pass that down and basically continue keeping the strong identity, our strong culture alive. [00:11:58] Speaker C: What is that deficit narrative? What are those stories of hopelessness? And what does that do for young people? What they see in the media all the time? [00:12:07] Speaker A: It just breaks down identity as well. And if you don't have that connectedness to your identity and your own culture, it's so much harder to kind of rebuild it as well. [00:12:19] Speaker D: It builds that barrier. There's a lot. They're already dealing with issues in their personal lives and everything else that appears. It's just there's a lot of barriers that they face, and it's just really hard to talk about it and for them to be able to share it. [00:12:35] Speaker A: I guess it also, like, it fosters the anger and the hatred and that that's already there. That's already so, like, it's already so hard to deal with and just gets to the point of just. Yeah, yeah. It is that hopelessness. It's essentially like a learned hopelessness kind of thing. [00:12:53] Speaker C: It's disheartening to see how the breakdown of identity not only creates barriers, but also fuels anger and hatred, further intensifying the struggles young people face. So how would you get a practitioner that's never experienced that to understand in some way what the experience might be like? [00:13:11] Speaker A: You get us listening. I'm very big thing is, like, listening about the stories, and you can, I'm sure, like, you'll be able to tell, like, the angst and the upset and the agony that's actually in their voice as they're trying to recall a lot of it. [00:13:25] Speaker D: Yeah. And I think just, you know, learning more, like, have, like, a cultural awareness, at least if you're going to deal with aboriginal occasions. You know, if you feel uncomfortable talking to an aboriginal young person, seek other support services. There's a lot of them out there. And if you're open to it, learn more about the area that you're in at least. [00:13:47] Speaker C: Thank you. Have you got an example of being able to have that voice and say what the issues, barriers and solutions are where it was actually a positive? [00:13:58] Speaker D: I think for me, because coming from a community, I didn't know what racism was. So I enjoyed making friends with everyone and being able to share my story with everyone who I am, being proud of my culture, my language. I could see how, like, there's a lot of people that are interested in the story and they're immersed in it and they want to learn more. And that makes me happy because I'm able to voice who I am, share my identity, and it's such a great feeling when someone wants to know about it. [00:14:31] Speaker C: So what are your hopes for aboriginal young people in Australia today? [00:14:35] Speaker A: I wanted them to have their strong identity, their strong culture, and basically let that be enduring and hopefully have for them to maintain their connections to themselves, their family, their spirit, culture, land, community. [00:14:53] Speaker D: I just, I guess, like, I hope that the young people today will be able to access that support that we didn't have growing up to be able to and teach them. There's other pathways in the world. I want to see more young people involved in other areas of work, even like with us too. She's in clinical and I'm doing organizational psych, so that's different. And I think just that really just being able to see them. And I hope that they can stay strong and be able to reach their. [00:15:27] Speaker A: Goal also like being that positive role model for more generations to come through and break the stigma as well. Because again, these guys are going to be future elders and they're going to be guiding the next lot of mob after them. [00:15:40] Speaker D: And right now the young people are struggling more than ever. So I just hope to see them get stronger in themselves and be able to pass that down. [00:15:50] Speaker C: If I was to get you to describe the amazing things about being an aboriginal young person, what would those things be? What would it look like and how would you describe them? [00:16:00] Speaker A: We are very self determined. We are so creative. We're nurturing, caring. We care for our land, we care for the environment. We care for others, essentially, which I'm not sure if much can be said about others. [00:16:18] Speaker D: Just being proud of who you are, where you come from. If you don't know where you come from, try and take the step to learn about it. If that's something that you want to do as a young aboriginal person, just having that kinship relationship, being able to have a family type, like family based relationship with anyone. Building the trust. [00:16:41] Speaker C: Absolutely. It's inspiring to hear about the self determination, creativity and caring nature of aboriginal young people. Building trust through kinship relationships and fostering a sense of family type bonds is a powerful approach for young aboriginal individuals. What would your advice be to practitioners to ensure that they include aboriginal children's voice? How would they do it? [00:17:03] Speaker A: Definitely listen, but listen again. Listen to their story. Listen to their family as well. If they come in with their family, try and get to know the family and build that connection as well, because a lot of kids are still learning about their culture as well, but the parents are the ones trying to still encompass a lot of that and pass that knowledge down. [00:17:23] Speaker D: So it's just include everyone, include everything non judgmentally. Try to understand them and their stories, the family, like she was saying, just notice how they are, how they react to certain things as well, because sometimes they put on a face and it's really hard to break that down and get the truth out of them. [00:17:45] Speaker A: Yeah. Again, it's not until like, you actually build that rapport, you can actually get down deeper and understand a lot more. Otherwise we're just gonna sit down and go. Yep. And just agree to everything because you just want to kind of over and done with as quick as possible. Yeah, yeah, yeah. [00:18:02] Speaker C: So what might be some ways that they could get to do that? Are there different ways that they might be able to engage with young people? [00:18:09] Speaker D: Kind of like what we're doing now? Yeah. Sit outside, have a yarn, just. Just talk before you get into anything formal. [00:18:18] Speaker A: Definitely. Even if you can get away from like a clinical setting, if it's possible. And yeah, get nature touching grass. It's the latest thing. Just go out, touch grass and build that connection to the land and even the cherries get the fresh air into you and just be mindful of the environment that you're in. Again, with beautiful lens to appreciate and. [00:18:43] Speaker D: Yeah, yeah. Just kind of go off the structure of a holistic background, you know, like the sewb. [00:18:50] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:18:51] Speaker D: They have a good example, a great example of what practitioners should look out for, you know, being able to stay connected with country, stay connected with family. [00:19:00] Speaker C: How is this maintained to balance the two worlds? You're in university, that is very high structure, and you come with this alternative knowledge. How have you balanced that? [00:19:10] Speaker A: I guess I'm pretty lucky because I get to incorporate a lot of it into my thesis and help be like with the indigenous kind of governance and guidance kind of thing. So I'm able to. Yeah, I'm able to use my. My knowledges for more western practice. [00:19:28] Speaker D: Yeah, I guess for me, because it is hard sometimes to communicate with family back home, but I think just being in a place like this, like Billia, Mali, just having other indigenous students around. And that's why I enjoy going to the reference group, because there's other psychology students around that are indigenous that share the same views. And it's good to just be able to be around other mob. And I guess growing up as a young person, I got an advice from someone. He said, if you want to be able to live in this world, have one feet planted with your culture, your people, and have one seed planted in the wide world, that's how you can be able to move on. [00:20:09] Speaker A: I love that. I haven't heard that, and I love it. [00:20:11] Speaker C: It's beautiful. What does it mean for your family to be studying? [00:20:16] Speaker D: I think it's a very powerful tool for ma'am, especially coming from a small community. There are a few of us young people. I have cousins that have gone through university, and I think just being able to share that knowledge with the mob back home and vice versa, sharing knowledge of my people down here. [00:20:35] Speaker C: As we start to wrap up this conversation, what specific aspects would you encourage non aboriginal practitioners working with aboriginal youth to reflect on and consider changing their approach? [00:20:47] Speaker A: I guess one thing is like, listen. Listen wholeheartedly. Don't interrupt or don't interrupt or interject or jump to conclusions kind of thing, but also use it as an opportunity to reflect on your own potential inviolacies as well and see what might be kind of stopping you from engaging more or like, stopping the best means of practice that you possibly could and could be giving. [00:21:16] Speaker D: I guess even in a work setting, I think just implements cultural awareness training for the entire staff within themselves. That's. That's a small step as well, to be able to help them listen. Yeah, yeah. All about just our voice in general, listen to our stories, because we're not lying. [00:21:40] Speaker A: So a lot of it's lived experience as well. And you can't really fake. Can't fake that, really. [00:21:47] Speaker C: Can I ask one more question? It was just elaborating on something you said earlier, Kali. Nothing about us without us. And I thought you could just explain what that means in research as well, or in policy. And what does that mean to you? [00:22:02] Speaker A: So there's nothing about us without us. It's basically making sure that it's accurate as well. It's not necessarily just Ethan going, oh, okay. We've observed this within the aboriginal population, but it's also being aware, like that's not necessarily just one lot of mob, that's not all, like all mob, all mobs like have their own different traditions and customs and ways of life. So it's also giving power to indigenous researchers as well and being able to pass on like a lot of indigenous knowledge as well. So yeah, I think after honours I'm definitely going to stick within the indigenous research field. First, coming into psychology, I originally wanted to go into like autism research and developmental psychology and then I was given this amazing opportunity to help with the School of Indigenous Studies and I said, sure, why not? And I'm so grateful that I did because I'm here, I'm learning so much about other indigenous communities and again, my own personal culture and identity and building that back up and yeah, it's hopefully staying in this space. [00:23:18] Speaker C: So there's a lot of evidence based around negative data driven deficit story. How can research and evidence be informed by aboriginal young people in communities? [00:23:27] Speaker A: Well, the young people, they know what they're currently dealing with, especially on country and with within their own communities and stuff, which drives a lot of this research and is why we need a lot of that indigenous governance and guidance and basically saying, hey, look, we need to deal with this. This is a bit of an issue for us, it's not just impacting us, it is a pretty general issue that is being dealt with both in indigenous and non indigenous communities as well. Such as like, as you were mentioning, with a lot of alcoholism and drug use and even with a lot of kids still being taken and trying to maintain these connections when a lot of them are getting broken down. So yeah, the kids are coming through with the experiences of going, this is what I've actually dealt with because of this. And being able to listen to these kids is huge. It's valuable information like that. There should be your data to be focusing on as well. [00:24:28] Speaker C: As we conclude this insightful discussion, it becomes clear that actively listening to the voices of aboriginal youth, understanding their unique experiences and fostering genuine connections are pivotal steps towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment. [00:24:44] Speaker B: Visit our website at dot au to access a range of resources to assist your practice. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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