The Nature of Healing: Voices of We Al-li

A helicopter view of the Bungle Bungle Range, located within Purnululu National Park.

A helicopter view of the Bungle Bungle Range, located within Purnululu National Park.

I have written about Judy Atkinson on a number of occasions in my blogs. Her book Trauma Trails: Recreational Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia inspired me into this field. I have learnt so much from her about the healing of trauma and its consequences. Judy is Patron/Elder Advisor of We Al-li Healing Programs and her daughter Carlie (Dr. Caroline Atkinson) is Program Director.

Judy’s book inspired me to set up my Sharing Culture website in 2013 which focused on the healing of intergenerational trauma. In the Healing section of this website I put together a page called Voices of We Al-li, which I took from quotes  of people who had attended We Al-li healing sessions (detailed in Chapter 5 of Judy’s book Trauma Trails).

As these ‘voices’ provide excellent insights into the nature of healing, I thought I’d post them here:

‘You know, I don’t think most Murri people have idea about healing. A lot of people I know think healing is just going to the doctor and getting fixed up—getting some pills or something like that. Faith healers—religion—stuff like that.

Saddest thing is they don’t even realise that they’ve got all the coping mechanisms, and they’ve been healing themselves all these years. If it was pointed out to them, things would really start to happen. They would build on it, because they know things are wrong, but they just don’t know what to do about it.

What I’ve learnt is, healing is facing up to the fact that you’ve got choices, and there is no need to live your life in this pain. You can always get out of it.

Yeah, just knowing that fact is a healing thing itself, and it shifts you from that place you’ve been in all the time, and you never thought you could get out of. You just accepted it, you know, you can’t change anything.

One of the things I have learnt in the workshops—the pain isn’t a bad thing, even though it may seem like a really bad thing. Going into the pain was some of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had. You go back into the shittiest experience, and afterwards you realise that if it hadn’t happened you wouldn’t be who you are, you wouldn’t have grown.’ Mary

‘The best thing about Halo House is I feel safe here. I know it’s a safe place for me. And there are people who come here with my medicine.

My medicine is people who will listen to me, like you and Uncle, when I want to talk about what is happening to me, with my spirituality. These people understand what I am going through.

My medicine is listening to other people too. First time I as in a meeting like this, and I listened to others talking, I though they were talking about my life, their experiences were like my experiences. Their feelings were like my feelings. They were stealing my story—I wanted to know how did they know my story and what it felt like to be me. 

Here, I’ve learnt what it feels like for me to cry and let out my anger in a way that doesn’t hurt myself or other people—that it’s good to be mad, silly, womb. I found out a lot about my spirituality. It has always been there but it just needed to come out.

The dancing. I never though I could dance until six weeks ago, when I was told I could. I didn’t know nothing about dancing, about shaking my leg—where to put my feet, I didn’t know nothing until I did a healing workshop with We Al-li. I feel safe in the workshops.’ Don

‘Healing is a really confusing word. When I first thought of it I thought I would go along and all this pain was going to be healed and at the finish I would just walk away and I would be healed, but now I know healing means learning.

Learning about yourself—learning about looking at things in a different way. Understanding how those things came to be.

Owning your own things, but not taking on board other people’s things. Being responsible for what you are responsible for, but not for other people’s responsibilities.

Learning how to deal with different situations—how to interact with people—how to lessen conflict—seeing your own things differently.’ Jackie

‘The word healing—it means to me [that] I need to look at all my pain. Feel the pain and release it. Work with it, talk about it, and let it go, rather than hold on to it, locking it up inside myself.

I need a safe place where I can talk about my pain, all the pain that I have had in my life, my drinking in my marriage, my childhood, to to be able to sit and feel free enough to talk about it to get it out of me. I had it in me for so long, too long.

I believe that’s when the healing takes place, when I can feel well enough in myself to talk honestly about how I feel, what happened to me, what it was like for me. It is action healing. That it what I found for myself. It is action.

I can sit around and talk about healing, but I had to do the work to make it happen, and it was, it is, hard work because it means for me, to go to We Al-Li where I can clean out that pain and I do it, the action is called for.’ Lorna

To me, these are powerful words.

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