By Dr Lisa Watts, Dr Lyn O’Grady MAPS and Dr Sarah Cavanagh MAPS, KidsMatter Project Team, APS National Office

The APS recently launched a range of new KidsMatter resources supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, parents, families and communities. A series of 12 powerful and emotional animated videos have been created that communicate key messages about the day-to day caring of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s wellbeing. The collaborative processes, centring on the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who worked alongside the KidsMatter team at the APS across all stages of the project, has resulted in high quality, evidence-based and highly engaging resources.

Process of development

In order to produce a suite of culturally appropriate resources from the existing KidsMatter structure, a participatory framework of respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was developed to ensure that the resources directly met the social and emotional needs of Indigenous children and their parents and care-givers.

Two core groups of cultural consultants from diverse geographical locations, including Central Australia and Victoria, worked with the APS team. Each of the cultural consultants engaged in the project had a proven track record in social and emotional wellbeing, held strong interrelationships within communities and networks and was regarded highly by community members. Building and maintaining respectful and trusting relationships with the cultural consultants for the duration of the project, from initial ideas through to final launch of the resources, was a key challenge and opportunity for the KidsMatter team.

The cultural consultants were engaged at the very beginning of the project and worked with the team to develop the conceptual framework for the videos, including the scripting of its themes, sub-themes and key messages in line with the KidsMatter framework. Cultural consultants drew on their own life and professional experiences to contribute deep understandings of social and emotional wellbeing from an Indigenous worldview and were very generous in sharing their insights and personal stories.

The KidsMatter team listened and carefully documented the extensive contributions made by the cultural consultants. This content was then reviewed by Indigenous psychologists to provide additional feedback on the conceptual framework, themes and key messages in the context of contemporary research in Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing. The videos were developed around three key strength-based themes consistent with the KidsMatter framework and important to mental health and wellbeing: cultural identity, adults taking care of themselves, and resilience.

An experienced Indigenous scriptwriter was engaged to turn the content outlines into video scripts, recreating the life events and stories shared by the cultural consultants and ensuring the key messages were captured. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models, photographers, actors, animators and musicians were also engaged and supported by an Aboriginal production company, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA). Cultural consultants facilitated the process of selecting and negotiating permission with elders to use culturally significant locations for filming. Filming involved a return to country for some of the consultants, which they reported led to a sense of healing.

The finished products

The videos depict everyday interactions in the lives of children and families and feature a range of kin relationships, cultural roles and responsibilities, environments and experiences, and highlight the importance these can play in fostering children’s social and emotional wellbeing. The videos provide a rich resource for educators and health professionals to use with children, young people and families, as well as in staff professional development.

The videos are authentic, relatable and emotionally and spiritually moving. They acknowledge some of the struggles experienced by Aboriginal people while also conveying the strengths within Indigenous culture. They contain messages about hope, being proud, connecting with culture, land and family, staying strong, finding and being role models, and asking for help when you need it.

Strength and value of the videos

The team showed the videos to a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people during the project as part of testing and then launching the materials. People were able to directly relate their own experience to the stories and to take meaning from them in different and personal ways. This was true for parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and children and young people who watched. The videos seem to have captured the essence of social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal people through the telling of stories within a backdrop of the many societal and cultural factors underpinning day-to-day lives. The cultural consultants involved in the process of development provided these heart-felt reflections.

“It is powerful to see positive images of Aboriginal men and valuing men as fathers.”

“There are positive messages for Aboriginal people of all ages in the animations.”

“When I view ‘The Walk of Life’, I can see my own life in there and the lives of my people.”

The project provided the opportunity to form a meaningful partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from both the Victorian and Central Australian region across many fields of expertise. Significant contributions to the project were made by Alfie Bamblett, Aunty Di Kerr, Ronald Briggs, Selena White, Christine Farmer, Carmen Naivalu, Virginia O’Rourke and Beck Cole. MK Turner, Christine Palmer, Veronica Turner and Marilyn Cavanagh also provided a valued contribution to the development of content.

The project is one that the APS and KidsMatter are very proud of, not only because of the quality and usefulness of the final resources, but also because of the collaborative and rewarding process of development. The KidsMatter launch of the animations at the APS in June 2014 brought tears to people’s eyes and the videos received a resounding round of applause. The cultural consultants captured the feelings of those involved in the process of making the series.

“The process was one of true partnership and we felt listened to all the way through and through – we were such a deadly team.”

The video animations can be accessed at: www.kidsmatter.edu.au/AboriginalKM

Online resource portal

An online resource portal has also been developed, designed to assist educators, health professionals and families to access existing resources as well as changes to the KidsMatter online programs guide that more specifically include programs and projects relevant to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The resource portal contains information and links to over 200 useful reports, websites, tools and services .

The resource portal can be accessed at: www.kidsmatter.edu.au/aboriginalportal

 

How psychologists can use the KidsMatter videos

Psychologists can use the videos in a range of ways – with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who are caring for children, in group or individual work, with adults and children together, and with non-Indigenous people. Viewing the videos can assist these people:

  • To reflect upon understandings of social and emotional wellbeing from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective
  • As a catalyst for discussion and exploration of the client’s experience
  • As tool to assist with psychoeducation
  • As part of staff PD within schools, early childhood services and health and community agencies.

Psychologists can also view the videos and reflect upon their own practice and journey in developing cultural competencies.

Note that the animations can trigger strong emotions and care should be taken to ensure appropriate supports are in place when using the videos.

 

The APS is pleased to advise that additional KidsMatter funding has been allocated to develop some new material to assist schools, early childhood services and professionals use the videos in a helpful, safe and respectful way. New resources will be added to the website over the next nine months.

KidsMatter is a national mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative being implemented in over 2,200 Australian primary schools and 260 early childhood services. The APS has been a partner in KidsMatter since 2006 and the initiative has been developed in collaboration with beyondblue, Principals Australia Institute, Early Childhood Australia and, with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and beyondblue. Further information about KidsMatter is available at www.kidsmatter.edu.au.

 

InPsych October 2014