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‘Strength’ training flips thinking on Aboriginal wellbeing

cohealth’s ‘Wellness Dreaming’ training encouraged Heather Gillard to see herself and her community in a different way.
“People are always saying, ‘what’s wrong with you, what’s your issue?’ It was really good for someone to finally ask, ‘what are your strengths?’”
As a newly trained Wellness Dreaming Messenger, Heather wants to support others in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to recognise their strengths and passions.

Heather, from Melton, was one of 26 people who participated in cohealth’s second Wellness Dreaming training for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from a variety of sectors in the north-west. Wellness Dreaming Project Officer Nicole Bloomfield said the training ‘flipped thinking’ on Aboriginal wellbeing, moving from a negative to a positive way of seeing communities.

Once trained, Wellness Dreaming Messengers run programs in their own communities and workplaces, using skills, resources and cultural wisdom gained through the program. Questions that focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong, are at the heart of the training led by Wellness Dreaming Project Lead Karen Ingram, a member of cohealth’s Prevention and Population Health Team.

“It’s interesting when you ask people to identify three things they love, three passions or things they care about. It’s a very different response to the one you get when you ask people what they need,” Karen said. “The positive question can lead to people identifying their gifts and what they know, the wisdom they have, and how that can be utilised. Some great community led actions can come from this way of thinking.”

Dreaming Circles led by Wellness Dreaming Messengers happen in a variety of settings. One group of Indigenous elders in Melbourne’s north-west participated in a Dreaming Circle and talked about going on a trip to their country.

“Once the group decided on what was important to them they soon came up with the idea of a camp on country to connect with culture and where they could take their pets. The Messenger guided the thinking towards steps for the group to research locations, budget and exploring ways to raise funds,” Karen said.

Karen has been inspired by the hopes and plans that have come from some of the 16 Dreaming Circles held in the past year, involving 178 people. A group was determined to build their confidence in chairing meetings and Acknowledging Country and in another Dreaming Circle a woman talked about her yearning to do something special for her children.

“The woman had been separated from her children for some time before eventually being reunited. She had never cooked a cake and didn’t know how to do it. But it was something she really wanted to do for her kids,” Karen said.

“Even though she had been involved with the other people in her group for some time, she had never had the opportunity to talk about wanting to do this thing for her children. Others in the group responded by organising to gather and help her bake the cake,” Karen said.

“It’s hard to measure the impact of this experience, not just for the woman, but for the group who helped make it possible and importantly for the woman’s children,” Karen said. “This was her passion and it enabled others to show their strengths.”

More about cohealth’s wellness dreaming training

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