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 38 Comments

  1. Sarah Sturton-Gill

    I was completely inspired by Eileen Hurley’s article and the positive impact that we establish non-criminal records. The ability to listen without judgement or know about a person without judgement resonates deeply with me and imaging a world where a persons past experiences are external to them, allows them so much opportunity in the world. I only pray that it can occur. Sarah

  2. Eugene Ford

    Everything in this lesson was deeply valuable and enrichening. I particularly enjoyed Eileen Hurley’s article, Establishing non-criminal records. I’m currently facilitating a respectful relationships program with the inmates of the right living unit of the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in British Columbia, and a topic that we’re continually revisiting is of how we can revisit past traumas and shames without retriggering acting out behaviors, particularly when looking at past behaviors of which they are deeply ashamed of. I can now recognize the importance of providing more of a ‘buffer’ between the men and their shame, but using further externalizing strategies. I’m going to use elements of Hurley’s work in my practice from now on.

  3. amy

    Eileen Hurley’s Documentation of non-criminal records is a wonderful example of reframing an experience with a strengths focus. I will definitely be adding this to my therapeutic practice tool kit. I found the way she utilised the participants/clients own language to document their tales very powerful as it was representing their narrative with their colloquial terms. Another great component of this wonderful course. Thankyou.

  4. Carlie Fairbairn

    So many great concepts talked about here. I can imagine the establishing non-criminal records process to be so empowering and life changing for so many people.
    Hearing about ‘definitional stories’ was truly inspiring; particularly the process of ‘challenging invisibility of selves within systems, families and self’ and garnering witness to our own worth and being.

  5. Kate Coomber

    The people of Rwanda’s documentation and the reflection on living in the shadow of genocide was very powerful and links directly to the strategy of remembering in a way as they say to assist us to face life and Barbara Wingard writes’ that make us stronger’. Memories have capacity to hurt and heal and the duality is important. You have to live the experience for it to become the memory but what you do after that makes all the difference. I really liked the ‘non-criminal records’ also, especially Eileen Hurley’s intention when writing them to give power and voice to the individual. Asking them when she could see them, what they would like written or discussed really showed the power of narrative therapy in being de-centred and influential.

  6. Su

    yes we are strong and we are resilient, to survive then thrive is an example of this. keep being kind to ourselves and finding that inner voice that is worthy of speaking truth. thank you for the amazing & empowering stories!! be proud & fierce

  7. Anna Ueda

    There were several pieces that resonated with me in this module—especially the part songs take such powerful roles not only as emotional catharsis but as bringing knowledge, skills, and strengthening resistance to the community as a whole. After my living area was hit by an earthquake in 1995 (the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake), my school started this tradition to sing a song of the earthquake for the graduation ceremony to remember the day and the departed. It is a sad but also meaningful song in many ways as each of us can re-member the associated events and memories with people along with the song.

  8. Pragya Lamichhane

    During the initial years of my studies, I had the opportunity to work as a counselor in a Women Cell Unit of law enforcement, through the course of my work the majority of domestic violence cases I documented had one theme in common, the feeling of abandonment by family, friends and the larger system. This invisibility contributes to the trauma that results from domestic violence and it’s wonderful to observe the work of Natalie Smee and how the use of Narrative therapy has provided the domestic violence victims of Gumbaynggirr to be felt that they are seen and that their stories matter.

  9. Nicola

    For me documentation has always been through art pieces, visual journals and poems. I love how they bring imaginings and concepts more concretely into the world. The letters with youth, young offenders and women who survived domestic violence all had places where they breathed strength and resilience into the world.

  10. Robyn Fawcett

    Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories. It’s so powerful to hear the resilience that exists in people.

  11. Danielle Wedlake

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful examples of documentation, a truly powerful part of the narrative process. I am grateful to learn from such insightful and strong individuals and collectives.

    In the spirit of reciprocity, I share this with you: I co-authored a story about 3 brothers: Anger, Frustration, and Agitation; a story of a young girl learning to live with the brothers as they appear in her life. The young girl learns strategies for keeping her power in the presence of the three brothers.

  12. Nicole

    I really appreciate the stories shared from youngs peoples experiencing of how people can concur ‘depression’ and ways they described healing for themselves and how they included community in the process.

    It carries a story of hope to others and lets others know they are not alone.

  13. deborah dowsett

    this module really resonated with me and I enjoyed so many aspects of what I watched and heard, it even gave me ideas on a different approach in what I do working with those impacted by addiction and mental health.

  14. marlene

    I worked with a community who were living in the shadow of the Apartheid war, on the borders between Botswana, Namibia and Angola during the 1990s and early millenium years. It is so interesting that the young man’s testimony on the video speaks the same language.
    I think the same process is useful for people form other walks of life, wether they have been through a divorce, lost a child or suffered from depression. What I most appreciate about this section, is its raw humanity – we are different, but our pain is the same.

    When we communicate with each other on this deeply honest level, we are able to transcend boundaries and meet in our common humanity.

  15. petronela

    I am currently working at an organization where we do group therapy and we use the Tree of Life methodology. The last part of the methodology is called “celebration” where we hand out certificates to the participants and one of the things that are recorded on the certificates is “Skills and Knowledges” of the participants. clients say their skills and knowledges during the “telling sessions” and we note them and record them on their certificates. We do this so that the clients can always go back to the certificates and remind themselves of their skills and knowledges and we have a hope that the feeling they get will help them to want to do better in their lives and also know that they are capable.

  16. Rhianne

    Rhianne – Brisbane, Australia
    I found the article ‘Establishing non-criminal records’ really powerful. I have worked in the Youth Justice system in Queensland and so have seen the power labels, court reports and lengthy charge sheets. I hadn’t thought about the impact non-criminal, more hopeful documents could have. But it makes sense.

  17. Samara

    This section was so powerful and it was such a honour to be able to read the stories and experiences of different groups of people. A big thank you to everyone who shared and contributed to this section! It was really broadened my understanding of the different ways/forms of documenting people’s skill and knowledge and the impact this can have. Such a powerful tool for highlight resilience, resistance, and strength.

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