Healing and Justice Together

Over the last few years, we have become increasingly interested in refusing to separate ‘healing and justice’. As the counsellors of Ibuka in Rwanda state:

We never separate healing from justice. These go hand-in-hand. We see in our work how justice is a form of healing and how healing is a form of justice.’

Here at Dulwich Centre, we are now involved in exploring the question ‘what is narrative justice’? When people have had many of their human rights violated and then turn to counsellors, psychologists and/or therapists for assistance, it is vitally important to consider their ‘rights’ in how their lives are spoken about.  Because the difficulties people are experiencing are the result of trauma, injustice and human rights violations, narrative therapy responses to trauma take very seriously people’s ‘storytelling rights’. Narrative therapy defends people’s rights to name their own experiences, to define their own problems, and to honour how their skills, abilities, relationships, history and culture can contribute to reclaiming their lives from the effects of trauma.

Collective Testimonies: We have come to testify — there is much we want the world to know

In 2013, a citizens tribunal was conducted to coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of the Byak Massacre – a devastating event for West Papuans in which more than one hundred civilians were killed, raped or tortured. This citizens tribunal looked and acted much like a court and followed the format of a coronial inquest (a formal inquiry into a death). While it had no formal jurisdiction, this tribunal was an action pursued by the long-running West Papuan independence movement and it received significant media coverage. West Papuan cultural practices and collective narrative practice informed the ways in which testimonies were told during this tribunal. The tribunal opened and closed with West Papuan song. A number of testimonies were given individually and a collective testimony was also delivered. The collective testimony is multi-voiced and multi-storied. At the tribunal it was delivered by Ronny Kareni:


This collective testimony continues to reverberate and to be put to use by the West Papuan independence movement. It is now available as a beautifully illustrated book and CD with the audio recordings of testimony and music produced by David Bridie and performed by Radical Son, the late Ferry Marisan, and Tio Bang. For a donation, it’s now possible to download the songs, audio tracks and illustrated book via https://wantokmusik.bandcamp.com/album/we-have-come-to-testify To read more about how narrative practices are being used to support social movements, see the Chapter ‘Narrative practice and social movement’ in the book ‘Do you want to hear a story? Adventures in collective narrative practice’ by David Denborough.


Narrative Therapy (draft) Charter of Story-Telling Rights

At the 10th  International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference in Brazil, we launched a draft ‘Charter of storytelling rights’. Already a number of individuals and organisations have indicated their wish to endorse this charter. The Charter has been written by David Denborough on behalf of Dulwich Centre Foundation. For more explanation see David discussing the Charter on a free on-line video at Friday Afternoons at Dulwich


Article 1  Everyone has the right to define their experiences and problems in their own words and terms.

Article 2  Everyone has the right for their life to be understood in the context of what they have been through and in the context of their relationships with others.

Article 3  Everyone has the right to invite others who are important to them to be involved in the process of reclaiming their life from the effects of trauma.

Article 4 Everyone has the right to be free from having problems caused by trauma and injustice located inside them, internally, as if there is some deficit in them. The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.

Article 5 Everyone has the right for their responses to trauma to be acknowledged. No one is a passive recipient of trauma. People always respond. People always protest injustice.

Article 6  Everyone has the right to have their skills and knowledges of survival respected, honoured and acknowledged.

Article 7  Everyone has the right to know and experience that what they have learnt through hardship can make a contribution to others in similar situations.

We welcome your feedback on this Charter. If you are interested in circulating it, discussing it in your workplace, endorsing it or suggesting additions or changes, please write to dulwich@dulwichcentre.com.au Alternatively visit the Dulwich Centre Foundation Facebook page.


Narrative responses to human rights abuses

We are also vitally interested in how narrative responses to human rights abuses and how narrative practices can support and sustain human rights workers. The following two publications explore these issues. The first describes work with Burmese/Myanmar women’s organisations. The second describes work in Kurdistan, Iraq.


Narrative responses to human rights abuses:
Sustaining women workers and honouring the survival skills of women from Burma / Myanmar





Responding to survivors of torture and suffering:
Survival skills and stories of Kurdish families


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