In 2016, in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, The Healing Foundation released a discussion paper titled Restoring our Spirits – Reshaping our Futures. It set out a culturally based healing framework for understanding and responding to trauma experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were sexually abused as children within public and private institutions. A range of recommendations were made to create change at a community, family and individual level to address the ongoing impacts of trauma stemming from institutional abuse. One of the recommendations was for The Healing Foundation to develop culturally based healing responses to protect children who have been sexually abused from further harm and to address the needs of perpetrators of child sexual abuse to stop the cycle of intergenerational abuse.
In responding to this recommendation, The Healing Foundation brought together a Knowledge Circle of key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers and survivors along with relevant non-Indigenous practitioners and researchers. The Knowledge Circle shared cultural, practice and research knowledge related to understanding, preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.
This paper sets out a culturally based practice framework for understanding and responding to child sexual abuse. The framework is designed to create and restore safety and healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities. It takes a holistic view of sexual abuse in terms of its causes and impacts on children, families, perpetrators and communities and proposes an integrated response to the complex challenges of those causes and impacts.
The concept of creating and restoring safety and healing connects the present with the past and future. It draws upon the enduring strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to drive safety and healing for children, families and communities along with relevant literature on child sexual abuse, trauma and healing. The framework addresses:
- the context of child sexual abuse and gaps in current approaches to addressing it
- values led approaches
- key elements and strategies for creating and restoring safety and healing