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Loss Grief & Trauma Care

      Because of Her, We Can!   Grief, hope and unity    Larissa Minniecon is on the frontline of a new pilot project by    AEF    and ADM that is bringing hope and healing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities. We are sharing this story as part of NAIDOC week. This year, the theme of    NAIDOC Week    is 'Because of her, we can!' and we wanted to celebrate the work of Larissa and the other women involved in 'Our Story'.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Larissa Minniecon, project manager of  Our Story: Finding Hope Beyond Grief   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Larissa Minniecon is a Christian Aboriginal woman, born in Sydney. Her father, Ray, is from the Kabi Kabi and Gureng Gureng nation, and is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people. Her mother, Sharon, is from the Meriam Mer language group from Ugar Island, in the Torres Strait.  Early in her life, Larissa moved with her family to Western Australia, when her father was called to ministry there. Many of Larissa’s family live in far north Queensland. “We know a lot of Christian Aboriginal folks from all over Australia!” she says.  Larissa and her family, especially her parents, are prominent figures in the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship. They spend much of their time working alongside other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians to spread the gospel, support their people and push for a better future for Australia’s first inhabitants.    Being an Indigenous Australian is a joy for Larissa, but it’s also a great challenge. The weight of a traumatic and sad history is upon Larissa’s shoulders. Even today, she and her fellow Aboriginal sisters and brothers still face racism regularly.  The complexity of these issues doesn’t disappear in churches. “We believe the message of the gospel, but we couldn’t understand the messenger,” Larissa explains. “When white people came here, there were people saying from the pulpit ‘don’t kill your brother’, but outside, they were massacring my people.”  She continues, “Seventy-three percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people call themselves Christians. This is because Aboriginal Missions were run by Christian denominations. The government moved my people off our lands and we were to be assimilated into white society, at the cost of our Aboriginal society."  “So though we are Christians, we don’t really have many Aboriginal churches here. I grew up in the Assemblies of God, and my grandparents, for over 30 years, started churches in Far North Queensland. Growing up in the church, I witnessed white ministers and pastors who’d discriminate and unfairly treat my grandparents, aunties and uncles, telling them they were not qualified enough to preach the gospel or run a church. But my grandparents, aunties and uncles were champions of the Christian faith, and they built their own church, their own denomination, called the Gospel Outreach Centre. It's in Ayr, QLD. It's the one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Church that I know of in Australia.”  "So even today, we’re still asking: what does it mean to have an Aboriginal church; to have Aboriginal ministers? They’re so very rare.”  But even as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to wrestle with what it means to be involved in, form or lead churches, Larissa is on the frontline of an exciting new, biblically-based project. This project provides a biblical foundation for understanding and responding to the loss, grief and trauma experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.  Titled  Our Story: Finding Hope Beyond Grief,  the   pilot project has been co-designed by the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) Women’s Fellowship (Eastern Region) and ADM. As Project Manager, Larissa has helped to run  Our Story  workshops in communities and enabled other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to implement this training in their local area.  The training content presents the historical and clinical context for the Aboriginal experience of loss, and provides a biblical foundation for understanding and responding to the loss, grief and trauma experienced by Aboriginal women – both historically and currently. The training uses story sharing, lamenting and culturally-appropriate creative expression as healing tools, embedded in the belief that hope and healing can be found in a relationship with the living God.  “It’s called ‘Sorry Business’, what we do when someone has passed on” Larissa explains. “There are a lot of cultural protocols that go along with it, depending on where the people are from. In some tribes and nations we don’t say the [deceased’s] name, in others there are certain families that will prepare the funeral on behalf of the grieving families, or a certain cultural songs or dance must be performed. So we just call it Sorry Business, which covers all those different things.”  Larissa says Sorry Business can be incredibly sad and difficult – and with the high mortality rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, it happens regularly, which perpetuates cycles of grief.  Other organisations have sought to bring assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people going through the trauma of regular deaths in the community. “All these health services and NGOs will come in to try and give us a medical model for dealing with our loss," Larissa explains, “but that doesn’t give hope, it gives labels and information.”  She notes the difference of the  Our Story  program, which is both “fully Indigenous and fully Christian”. Larissa says, “It breaks the cycle of loss, grief and trauma by giving the hope of a better life in knowing God. It reveals hope to women in the midst of challenge, and Aboriginal women overcome challenge by talking in community.”  The program has so far been trialled in Queensland, where Larissa shares, “The impact was so amazing. One of the ladies being trained, Aunty Tracy, said it beautifully:       
   
     “ The is the first time we’ve had a biblical model, and we can actually talk about loss, grief and trauma without feeling guilty about why we feel this way. In the end, we’re looking for hope for another day, and the biblical model gives us hope. God is there, in all the dark places. ” 
   
  
 
     As the program continues to be trialled and refined, Larissa hopes that it will continue to impact many – and even provide a cross-cultural bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. “My hope is that we get to do this together, because we are a community of Christians. You can’t do grief alone because you won’t survive. Hopefully one day, we will all be brothers and sisters under the same roof, as an Australian Church. We’ll all be together, and we’ll be able to say, ‘this is what church looks like’.”                  Find out more about  Our Story: Finding Hope Beyond Grief        

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Because of Her, We Can!

Larissa Minniecon is on the frontline of a new pilot project by AEF and ADM that is bringing hope and healing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities. We are sharing this story as part of NAIDOC week. This year, the theme of NAIDOC Week is 'Because of her, we can!' and so we wanted to celebrate the work of Larissa and the other women involved in 'Our Story'…

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      AEF and ADM Launch Project for Aboriginal Women  Loss, Grief & Trauma Care Pilot Project for Aboriginal Women begins                        Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship Australia (AEF) and Anglican Deaconess Ministries (ADM) have come together to design a Loss, Grief and Trauma Care Pilot Project for Aboriginal Women.  The 11-month project – beginning on 31 July 2017 – will be rolled out initially across Queensland, NSW and Victoria. It aims to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to explore their experiences of loss, grief and trauma, and facilitate healing through the use of creative tools – all within a biblical framework.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The idea for the project stemmed from the AEF Women’s National Conference in November 2016. Speaking at the conference, Keren Masters, clinical counsellor and lecturer, addressed the historical and clinical contexts for Aboriginal experience of loss, grief and trauma, and outlined a biblical foundation for understanding and responding.      
   
     “ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced, and continue to experience, profound loss, grief and trauma, ” 
   
  
 
     says Kathie Naden, Secretary, AEF Eastern Area Ladies. “Losses are at a personal level through experiences such as family violence, substance abuse, children removed into care, incarceration, suicide, and unemployment. Losses are also at a societal or community level, through experiences including intergenerational loss and grief, loss of land, loss of culture, loss of language, stolen generations, racism, and legal exclusion.”  In helping to address these traumas at the conference, AEF member and artist, Ngardarb Francine Riches, worked with the women present using tools of creative expression for healing.  The Loss, Grief and Trauma Care Pilot Project will take the learning and skills taught at the conference and share them with women (both Christian and non-Christian) throughout the AEF Women’s network in the Eastern states. Under a train-the-trainer structure, around six pairs of women will be trained as volunteer Master Trainers, who will then carry out training in their local communities. Training materials will be developed – including a manual, workbook, presentation resources, and creative expression tools.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Women from AEF and ADM work on the developing the pilot project.  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     An AEF Project Manager will assist with implementation of the project, while ADM will provide project design expertise, implementation guidance, and finances. After 11 months, AEF and ADM will together evaluate the impact of the project and consider expanding it in the future.  “We hope this project, with possible continuation beyond the pilot, will be a small step toward wholeness and flourishing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in AEF’s networks,” says ADM’s Director of Mercy & Justice Ministries, Margo Leach.  She continues: “We believe that by seeking to recognise, acknowledge, understand and help process these losses, women will take positive steps forward on the path towards healing. When we place this experience of loss within a Christian theology – with ultimate hope being found in the radical love and healing of Christ – women can experience a deeper, holistic healing that recognises past and present experience, yet brings hope for the future.”   Read more about our Mercy & Justice projects here.

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AEF and ADM Launch Project for Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship Australia (AEF) and Anglican Deaconess Ministries (ADM) have come together to design a Loss, Grief and Trauma Care Pilot Project for Aboriginal Women.

The 11-month project – beginning on 31 July 2017 – will be rolled out initially across Queensland, NSW and Victoria. It aims to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to explore their experiences of loss, grief and trauma, and support hope and healing through use of creative tools, all  within a biblical framework.

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