‘Giving Aboriginal Kids a Voice’

By Lucy Van Sambeek

Campaign Completed on

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A bit of context

Thanks to campaigners like Rosie Batty, Australia is now realising the enormous cost that domestic and family violence has on our communities.

The Northern Territory has the worst rate of domestic violence assaults per capita in Australia. If you are Aboriginal you are 22 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than a non-Aboriginal woman. In addition, Aboriginal children account for the largest and increasing proportion of child abuse notifications with the number of removals from family on the rise.

For many years the sector has neglected to keep up with the level of support required to assist the survivors. Children also struggled to be recognised as clients in their own right who deserve to receive services and support after witnessing trauma. In remote areas of Australia, services and supports are even more thin on the ground. And even when there are services, the voices of children remain silent.

Here's the problem

As a counsellor working in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory for almost 10 years, I have sat with hundreds of children and their families. I have seen the fear and shame that paralyses children, preventing them from talking about their experience of domestic and family violence. Many of these are boys that are so traumatised by their experience, their behaviour causes ongoing problems for their teachers, police and their families.

Here’s our solution

In my work, I have also witnessed the wonderful way that metaphors can help people talk about difficulties in their lives. Metaphors help children communicate in third person, where it is impossible to talk directly about an experience.

So a few years ago, I set out to write a book that would invite Aboriginal children (especially boys) into a safe conversation about the effects of violence on them and their families.

It was easy to enlist talented Yolngu artist and friend, Christine Burrawanga to illustrate the book, as this topic is very close to her heart. The pictures will appeal to children’s cultural strengths and innate sense of belonging.

Our book has just been released! You can read more about it here. http://www.metaphoricallyspeaking.com.au/giving-aboriginal-children-a-voice-part-ii/

‘The Life of Tree’ is designed to be read to the child by a trusted adult, such as counsellors, social workers, teachers, Aboriginal health or support workers, foster carers or family members. It features therapeutic explanatory notes at the back of the book, designed to assist readers in supporting the child.

When a child finally has the confidence to share their story, the burden of shame and fear is lifted from their shoulders. This alone can promote a change in behaviour. Extra supports for children and families can also be put in place.

What we want to do

Our aim is to put a free book in every women's refuge in remote and rural communities of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. If we reach our target we can send books to 50 identified refuges for Aboriginal support workers to use with children that enter their service. If we exceed our target goal we will keep sending books to Aboriginal communities in other states. Remote schools are also showing interest in our book.

We will be working closely with our networks to determine which communities are most in need.

What you can do to help

Your contribution will give Aboriginal kids a voice on violence.

Every $25 you donate is one free book to one community. This covers all production costs, printing, postage and handling. We'll acknowledge you as the sponsor and write your name in the inside front cover.

Donate $50 and we'll send two books in your name. And so on.

Thank you

for supporting us.

Lucy and Christine


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Team Members

Lucy Van Sambeek