Decolonising identity stories

Decolonising practice

An introduction from Tileah Drahm-Butler

Decolonising Identity Stories

Tileah Drahm-Butler discusses how narrative therapy can be used as a decolonising practice.



Now you can read Tileah’s chapter on the same topic:

Decolonising identity stories: Narrative practice through Aboriginal eyes

This chapter is from the book Aboriginal narrative practice: Honouring Storylines of price, strength and creativity by Barbara Wingard, Carolynanha Johnson and Tileah Drahm-Butler

Closing words from Tileah

This Post Has 55 Comments

  1. Samara

    Tileah’s presentation really helped me to reflect on the impact of the language I use and the stigma that frequently used terms such as ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’ can carry. It is so valuable to be aware of this because changing our language can crucially shape the way in which we engage with people and people engage with us. I also found it really helpful to view our role as helping to bring the strong story to the surface rather than defining or labelling a person’s situation and externalising the problem from the person and community. Such valuable considerations to hold in mind for all conversations.

  2. Rhianne

    As a white, female practitioner I try to be as respectful and culturally appropriate, and effective, as possible. Decolonising practice requires looking at the whole approach though. Thanks for sharing Tileah

  3. Sushma Shrestha

    Decolonising practice is a new term to me but certainly vey important in any sector particularly the health and community sector. I like how this practice is based on Strengths Based perspective, which is about identifying with the individual their strength and acknowledging them as the expert in their own situation. I like the saying that Tileah made- ‘The problem is the problem, the individual, or community is not a problem’. It is so important for practisioners to open their minds beyond diagnosis and problem and look at the bigger picture- societal, political, cultural, historical from the individual/community perspectives.

  4. Toni Kernick

    I don’t think I fully understood the internalisation of racism that causes ‘shame’. Externalising this and other ‘problems’ will definitely be part of my practice.

  5. Paul Hobson

    What Drahm-Butler says about listening to stories and finding other stories within that show a stronger story is very familiar to myself who as mentioned earlier, uses a strengths based approach when working with individuals. Even the slightest example of strength when someone else cannot see it can make all the difference in working with that person and completely change the effort they put into a situation when they can see that bit of good and power.

    In the reading I was also able to take away the importance of seeing things through different eyes and almost putting myself in another’s shoes. What makes sense to me as a white, European male who has the opportunity to work with Indigenous families does not mean it is right or accurate. I must see through their eyes and their culture and allow them to guide and teach me.

  6. Tracy Hardy

    I have found this so relevant and helpful and will definitely be exploring more on how I can integrate this into my practice.

  7. jariah

    I thoroughly enjoyed this module. I often speak to people who are struggling with a loss, or multiples losses. I found chapter 3 of Aboriginal Narrative Practice so helpful, especially the questions to remember and discuss a loved one. Thank you for this reading, I think I would like to read the whole book. 🙂

  8. Elizabeth Tomlins

    I am delighted with the concept that the client is the expert in their own life and to encourage them to find the strengths and strong ways of their story. It was so helpful to read the stories shared by Tileah of her work with those on their healing journey.
    To look at how influential the practice of looking through the Colonial lens has been on our First Nations people. I look forward to learning more and using these lessons as I continue to work with Community Members & their families.

  9. Kimberley M

    This was such a clear and informative section and I loved hearing about how narrative practice elevates the stories of people to be told in a way that invites strength and resistance – this is, as I understand it, an act of decolonising practice.
    I also thought it was so special that Tileah’s acknowledgment of country started with her acknowledgment of the stories of the traditional custodians, and the importance of these. This is something I will take with me in my own practice.
    As a social work student, I use the words “counselling” and “therapy” very often. Today it was highlighted how these words and concepts can be seen as colonising and that First Nations people are often forced into these practices and problematised. Now that I think about this, I understand the importance of decolonising what I do but also what I say and how I approach every aspect of working with First Nations people.


    Tileah’s presentation was excellent and I found it to contain many approaches I can utilise in my own work to counter the all too common deficit narrative that exists for Aboriginal people. I am a white fella working with Victorian Aboriginal youth in a drug and alcohol rehab. I work alongside an Elder and cultural lead and we use the social and emotional wellbeing as our key framework. I like the concept of externalising shame. I’ve worked in postvention suicide for many years and have used this approach, particularly with men who can struggle with verbalising these experiences. I’m really enjoying this course!

  11. Liz

    I am curious to put those externalising questions into practice.
    Separating the person from the problem works well in recovery – love the person not the addiction.
    Need to get better at asking questions and listening.

  12. Nicola

    I love that the focus is on honouring the person’s strengths and resiliency rather than focusing upon deficits, not “‘labelling” people as ‘being’ the ‘problem’ but rather as ‘having’ a ‘problem, creating space for people to step out of their dis-ease.

  13. Miranda Leon-Madgwick

    Tileah Drahm-Butler open the conversation into empowerment for our Aboriginal and TSI people by naming the problems they own them and can change that narrative into a learning and personal growth experience. This claps the face of colonising and the control over their lives, stories and problems, giving ownership back and a new direction for empowerment.
    By adopting this decolonising practices, we become enlighten in all area of being.


    One of the take-home messages for me is that counseling as I’ve been taught is actually in that anti-colonial framework and I’ve never thought of it that way before. I love the use of the word yarning instead of counseling or therapy and will use this from this day forward when I see my clients. I never got to grow up in culture and this is really helping me to understand how to decolonize myself so I can work in that holistic framework of SEWB more than I am now. I’m also going to order the book as well 🙂

  15. Chris McFarlane

    I love working in ways that ensures the person remains the expert in their own life. The yarns where it is about them, removing stigma and humanising the conversation and experience is so important.

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