Documenting people’s skills and knowledge

Introducing documentation

Tileah Drahm-Butler

Living in the shadow of genocide: what sustains us

This video is a collective narrative document that honours the skills of  counsellors and assistant lawyers of Ibuka (‘Remember’) which is a genocide survivors association in Rwanda.

Please also read these letters written between Rwandan, Jewish and Aboriginal  counsellors:

Strengthening Resistance: The use of narrative practices in working with genocide survivors

An encyclopedia of young people’s skills and knowledge

In narrative therapy and community work, we try to document people’s skills and knowledge. We do this in lots of different ways! Here is an example of a a recent project that documented the skills and knowledge of diverse groups of young people in many different ways … writing, video and songs!

Encyclopedia of young people’s life-saving tips 

Documents in therapy

Eileen Hurley (USA) tries to assist young people in jails to create ‘non-criminal records’ through narrative documentation.

Establishing non-criminal records, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work


A booklet of women’s stories

A collective booklet from women who are survivors of domestic violence – a presentation from Natalie Smee


Sometimes songs can play a powerful part in narrative practice. Here’s a song that was generated from a narrative gathering in Narrandera Koori community:

We remember those who’ve left us

Closing words from Tileah

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. This has been my favourite unit so far. I liked looking through the encyclopedia and hearing the helpful tips from the participants. Some things I gleaned are that society needs all of us together, we cannot place more value on someone else because each of us are here to contribute something to society. Dr’s need patients and engineers need labourers, we are all needed. Also, the part about how having respect builds relationships, I think this is very important. I was interested in the comment one of them made about how they would make their body so tired that their mind would forget their depression, this is a good way of looking at the therapeutic benefits of exercise. I thought the statement about the government and action was really powerful. ‘The government leads people into depression and then tries to lead the out again’. This really resonated with me, I think the government has a lot to answer for the current state of services. I also liked the video on bullying and found some helpful tips to pass onto my niece who has been experiencing really bad bullying. I liked the impact of music and how you can choose to listen to the words of artists instead of the negative words of the bullies. Something to consider which I think is important and transcends playground bullying, is to find the person will take action when nobody else will and also to never ignore it when someone comes to you for help.

    I got a lot out of the domestic violence booklet presentation but the thing that resonated the most with me was the statement that women are not passive, there are many things they are doing every minute that ensures their safety and that they are doing the best they can with what they have available.

    Thank you for a great and very reflective unit.

  2. “There is power in sharing stories”. Thank you for the piece on Domestic and Family Violence. Taking the power back for women who have experienced this is the first step to healing.

  3. A most appreciative of the time and effort the authors of these biographical life stories share with strangers the emphasis on their personal struggles and life’s learnings much appreciated

    1. I completely agree with you Tony, we are all fortunate to benefit from the work and bravery of these folks.

  4. I enjoyed the video ‘Living in the Shadow of Genocide’. This video got me thinking and reflecting on the different ways people cope, heal and transition through experiences of genocide. There really is no one size fits all despite shared commonalities. I also realised that story telling can be initiated with a person by inviting them to talk and share what sustains them during hard times including their community and culture.

  5. In reading “Strengthening Resistance: The use of narrative practices in working with genocide survivors”, the sadness I felt when reading about the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi people in Rwanda. But at the same time I was transported back in time to what it must have been like during colonisation and the mass trauma experienced by the Australian Aboriginal people, in which sadly, can still be felt and seen in ill mental health, suicides and many other devastating ways 200+ years later. Sadly, the Aboriginal people did not have access to immediate mental health therapy at the time until many, many, many decades later. I can see that sharing documents between countries can have a profound effect on helping others and each other to heal and strengthening resistance.

  6. In listening and reading of resistance and survival I am taken to a place of reflection. Reflecting on my own family’s story of leaving a home country because of the impact of war, of traumas that have occurred in our family both known and unnamed, and my own experience of family violence. Taken to a place to reflect on the strengths shared and drawn on to ensure emotional and psychological survival. The part that music, words and dance have played across generations. How easily these can be lost when we take a path of avoiding pain when we don’t know how to carry it with us and don’t know how to seek support to do the same … and how powerful, hope full and strengthening it is to collectively find ways to trust to feel again, to connect in our humanity and nourish those parts of self that are still there in spite of the traumas.

  7. While reading ‘Strengthening Resistance – The use of narrative practices in working with genocide’ I admired the work of the Rwandan trauma counsellors, assistant lawyers and the Dulwich team in their workshop. Sharing stories from other communities like the Aboriginal people from Port Augusta and their stories, stories of resistance and survival. One quote from ‘A message from Ibuka to the Port Augusta Aboriginal Community’ which I found very powerful and really resonated with me so I have chosen to end this paragraph with it.

    We want to say to you that we are together with you in sorrow. Your sorrow is our suffering.

    Reading Aunty Barbs message of support in the Dignity and Pride, Strengthening Resistance (pg36), to be able to sit and listen to my elders share their stories, their art and dances empowers our mob. Joining with others in dance, song and laughter – when you have lived through genocide, revelling and enjoying life has new meaning. As with my culture our people have endured feelings of despair and hopelessness. I felt pride and privilege as she talked of our ways of resilience and resistance. As an Aboriginal woman, I have listened to the stories and I still watch in our modern times the continuance of systemic oppression. How we have survived genocide and overcome generational traumas through love of our culture and peoples. I’d like to share a quote that was shared during a work meeting last week by one of our non-indigenous staff “They buried us in the ground but they didn’t know we were seeds” I found this quote to be profound as again it demonstrated how our parents, grandparents and great grandparents have suffered overwhelming sorrow, terrors and pain and loss, and of our resilience to keep moving forward.

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