Creative projects

Creative projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander narrative practitioners are involved in some fantastic projects! Here are just some examples.

Tree of Life in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

with Che Stow

Examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Trees of Life

Using the Tree of Life to help young mums

Carolynanha Johnson

My meeting place

Vanessa Davis created this narrative methodology by integrating Aboriginal Art with Narrative Practices in order to create culturally appropriate counselling with Aboriginal children and young people.

Didgeri: Local Collective Response

by Anthony Newcastle


No More Silence

Aboriginal men supporting others who have experienced childhood sexual abuse

Men’s Talk

This project involves men from Mounts Isa, Cloncurry and Normanton sharing stories about Aboriginal ways of being uncles, mentors, dads, grandfathers and friends .

Click here to see the Men’s Talk Project

Thwarting Shame: Feminist engagement in narrative groupwork

 by Kylie Dowse

Yarning with a purpose

 by Carolynanha Johnson

Solid families: Strong in heart and spirit

This program, ‘Solid families: Strong in heart and spirit’, is to our knowledge the first parenting support program based on Aboriginal values. It was initiated by Aboriginal mothers in Roebourne, Western Australia, and developed through a cross-cultural partnership led by Anne Mead and Jasmine Mack.

Click here to view the Solid Families webpage

This Post Has 20 Comments


    The Kylie Dowse presentation was really fascinating. It’s really interesting that the removal of shame seems to have lead to acknowledgement by the participants of what they had done and full awareness of their damage as perpetrators.


    Loved the tree of life and the My meeting place adaptation. Felt the adaptation allowed for very visually based sequencing and had natural order to it!! Also is an excellent take home for the expert (the client) to continue to remain connected to the things that make them who they are!!!

  3. Mandy Kaselow

    I enjoyed immensely the My Meeting Place and the provision of questions to support my learning. Great concept and one I will use (in a slightly different format) with the young Aboriginal people I work with,
    The Didgeri group’s video project around supporting men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse was also enlightening and demonstrated the power of telling your story and externalising the “Problem” to support healing.
    Listening to Aunty Carolynanha Johnson and Yarning with purpose and understanding that the affects of colonisation, grief and loss affects Aboriginal poples ability to make positive change.
    Also the Shame Mat – it just goes on loved this moule as it provided practical examples to incorporate in to practice.

  4. Soraya Sek

    Wow, some great programs here. I loved learning about “My Meeting Place” and the reminder by Vanessa to offer a more lighthearted and playful approach for children, even though we may be discussing difficult matters. I also appreciated her examples of alternatives to provide for people who do not wish to share the names of people for cultural reasons (using an initial, symbol, or colour).

    The Didgeri group’s video project around supporting men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse was extremely moving. Thank you to all involved.

    The last two very minor, but very powerful elements that have stuck with me were “helpful” and “unhelpful” shame in relation to men’s DV behaviour change programs (and I can see it translating well to more general offence-focused or behavioural programs) and Carolynanha Johnson’s wonderful reminder that we can “hold on to hope” for our clients when they are losing hope.


    I learnt something from each speaker here. Everything I have learnt I will put into practice when yarning with my clients. The Life Tree, Symbols in art story telling with the spiritual connections.
    I see many males clients that allow shame to limit their healing and speaking up. I now have a better understanding of how to assist them.
    The majority of my clients are smokers, and I will recommend quit line and work with them in assisting them to take control of the cigarette and not allow the cigarette to control them.
    Thank you.

  6. Mandy Teis

    I really enjoyed this module (well, I enjoyed them all), but this one had so many fabulous concepts and ideas around community development. The tree of life model is fantastic and is something I will definitely incorporate into my work within my community development projects up the Cape.

    I also got a lot from the mens sexual abuse and the shame that walks beside their experience. It has helped me better understand some of the families I am working with and help support them in overcoming these experiences and work toward a more positive future. Really really enjoyed this.


    Solid Families:Strong in Heart and Spirit, I wish I’d known about this program earlier. The symbolism of the tree,roots,trunk,leaves,fruits,flowers are very much aligned with depicting families. This is powerful imagery and I can see how with the sharing of strength, togetherness and withstanding storms, can help to thicken out stories of those participating. Thwarting Shame – Insight Program by Kylie Dowse. What resonated with me most was the term ‘people who use violence’ rather than using dishonouring phrases like ‘perpetrator’. I can see the externalising of shame by the use of a shame chair, a support group for shame, or putting shame in another room as beneficial. SAFETY: as achievable RESPECT: as accessible CHANGE: as possible VISABLE: renewed hopes and dreams of how men wanted to be viewed by their families. Lastly Brene Brown’s quote “Shame corrodes, the very part of us that believes we are capable of change”. Thank you for the thought provoking ideas, so much to think about, so much to digest.


    I felt moved to tears by listening to these stories. How brave are these women and men?! How incredibly resilient! And what an amazing tool the Tree of Life is in channeling those feelings and histories into deeper meaning/understanding.
    I loved the systemic approaches here which are so difficult to pull of and so deftly carried out by these folks.

  9. Patricia

    I have seen and worked with many variations of the tree of life, initially through red dust healing.
    I like the meeting place concept and the symbols used looks to be a good way of yarning and visualizing at the same time .


    Re visiting Tree of Life through out this course, has made me think of the many ways in which Tree of Life can be used to support, encourage stories being documented and reflected on. Some of the resources in this topic Creative Projects has hit home for me and has re-awaken me of how valuable our cultural ways and how they are evidence based methods. Thank you


    This was very helpful to kick start creativity and thinking about how to incorporate different modalities of art into healing exercises. Looking forward to exploring how we can utilize some of these ideas to engage youth, particularly our Youth Advisory Council in making their voices and ideas heard and seen. Thanks for sharing this.


    I loved the Tree of Life and My Meeting place tools to assist in drawing out the client’s narratives and self perceptions in an age and culturally appropriate manner. I worked in Child safety in remote communities in Cape York and would need to complete a framework with the kids called ‘The three Houses’ which entailed to children saying what is in their house of happiness, house of worries and house of dream. Often I would find that when doing this with the children in the Aboriginal communities I was working in they were difficult to engage in the task especially if you did not already know them well and the task did not allow them to tell their stories through their own expressions- rather through the narrow lens Child Safety was willing to view their story through. Utilising a strengths approach and using the Tree of life would be a far more useful tool when working with children especially in remote communities. Child Safety Staff would also assist in completing ‘Social/Cultural stories’ with and for the children especially if they were disconnected from family, community and culture. I would do this by yarning with their family back home and completing a genogram, finding out about totems, language groups, special places etc. Having now seen the ‘My Meeting Place tool’ I can see that this would have been an effective tool to use with the family members as well as the kids themselves to find out history about the kids’ families and backgrounds while also allowing them to share their current knowledge as this was rarely explored.

  13. Natalie

    Recently, on ABC radio Cassie McCullagh was interviewing Stan Grant. They were discussing many things pertaining to Australia’s first nation people and how the recorded history of British colonization in Australia omits narrative from a first nations perspective. There was suggestion of a “civil rights museum”; as seen in other places where genocide has been experienced, like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, African slavery in US, Apartheid in South Africa and the Holocaust of the Jews. If Australia had its own civil rights museum, the narrative of our first nations people might be captured in stories, songs, artwork and documentaries, that honour the memory of their story and celebrate their resilience.

  14. Caroline

    The lack of understanding of the blockages and challenges that Shame presents to change by mainstream services for our people. This lack of understanding leads to the fall over of programs and lack of engagement by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

  15. Mary Marshall

    This is the best section – thanks so much for sharing insights/knowledge with non indigenous Australians. It is so generous given so much pain underpinning it all – myself I wouldn’t be so generous.

  16. Keiron Andrews

    this was a terrific section. all of those thoughtful and creative ways of using narrative principles. Amazing!


    Thank you very much for all these videos and for everyone sharing their experiences, observations and knowledge. I found myself reflecting on my own experience of shame and accompanied emotions in a transformative way – shame can be very difficult to verbalise but this is where visual art techniques can be helpful or working with symbols or music to convey what one is struggling to communicate. ‘Yarning with a Purpose’ was beautiful, thank you Carolynanha Johnson for sharing your experience and knowledge.

  18. Charmaine

    I loved the creative ways that narrative therapy can be used in counselling, whether in a group setting or with just one person, it works by helping people to bring out their stories in a culturally respectful environment. I actually sat down with my visual art journal to go through the Tree of Life on my own and I found myself writing “breaking” with a habit or “breaking” transgenerational trauma. I stopped myself as I felt the word “breaking or break” was too harsh and negative plus I felt like I was breaking my tree or breaking the branches and it felt wrong to use that word, so I used the word “heal” in its place and it felt so much calmer to my mind and heart. I want to “heal transgenerational trauma”.

  19. Barry Bartlett

    I would like to know if Anthony is originally from Alice Springs. I did a Course called the Niche Program (Canadian Indian mixed with the Aboriginal Culture and History. This was in 1991 1992.

  20. Angele James

    As much as I value words I am reminded again and again of the connections we make to place through images, metaphors and sound. That many opportunities exist if we are open to exploring them for people to step away from the heaviness of things like shame, that what lies beneath is strong because it drives many along without quite knowing how or why. To bring that which is hidden forward is such a gift to witness, participate in and experience. It reconnects me to the many reasons why I love counselling for it is so much more than simple words.

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