The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to explore Canadian-based approaches empowering women and children to overcome intergenerational trauma

The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to explore Canadian-based approaches empowering women and children to overcome intergenerational trauma featured image

About Jane: 

Jane Pedersen has had various roles in Aboriginal community controlled organisations in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, working in policy, research and program design. Most recently she spent over four years at Marninwarntikura Aboriginal Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. Jane now works for June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, where she is involved in the Wiyi Yani U Thangani, Women’s Voices project.

Jane conducted her Churchill Fellowship explorations in 2017, while at Marninwarntikura. She visited organisations across Canada and the USA to explore approaches empowering women and children to overcome intergenerational trauma. Her findings document a range of evidence-based models and approaches to work that can enable the creation of effective and sustainable community interventions to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Her report highlights how to take a holistic approach to addressing trauma, and relating harms, such as revitalising practices in health and wellbeing. She concludes that context specific research and design are critical to developing effective community interventions. Jane’s Churchill fellowship continues to be used by Marninwarntikura as a practice guide in its journey to becoming a trauma-informed and healing organisation. Jane continues to work on understanding how trauma-informed practices can be applied in and translated into policy design.

Fellowship Report Overview:

The Churchill Fellowship explorative travels and the ongoing learnings during the writing of this report follows extensive inquiry and work into trauma-informed and healing practices at Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre. Marninwarntikura is renowned for its Indigenous women’s leadership in intervening on the oversupply and overconsumption of alcohol and resulting harms. Since community driven alcohol restrictions were put into effect in 2007, Marninwarntikura has focused on the strategic development of societal restoration of Indigenous health and wellbeing in addressing complex harms resulting from trauma. Recently, as part of this strategic approach, Marninwarntikura has committed to a journey of becoming trauma and healing informed.

My travels reflect the need for community based work, the social service sector and policy makers to grasp the breadth and depth of intergenerational trauma, and what it means to create effective and sustainable community interventions that can break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. I visited several Canadian and USA urban based organisations working within a framework of trauma-informed principles and practices, harm reduction approaches and women and children centred designed work and organisational strategy. Many of these organisations were working with substance using and substance involved women. The report highlights the need to take a holistic approach to addressing trauma, and relating harms, and the need to focus on strengths to develop effective healing approaches to work.

Although, many of the places visited were women focused, they appreciated women’s lives as being within context and intimately connected to children, men, families and communities. The report rarely makes a gendered distinction in the trauma-informed and recovery approaches to work highlighted throughout. However, it is important to remain aware of the intersecting nature of gender, race, economic status and class with the prevalence of traumatic experiences. Everyone needs healing, but women and those from minority backgrounds experience a far higher prevalence of violence and sexual assault than men and others from mainstream society.

This report covers 8 central sections based on the extensive findings from my visit to Canada and the USA. It begins by providing the evidence of trauma and its undeniable impact on the brain, biology and society resulting in perpetuating cycles of trauma and disadvantage. The following sections present a range of practices and approaches to engender hope that transforming trauma is possible and real. The report recommends that community organisations should commit to serious investment in research and development to form effective trauma and healing models of work. In doing this theory can be translated into immediate and context appropriate practices. 

The seven recommendations which conclude the report are designed as a trauma-informed and healing implementation plan to be used by Indigenous and community-based organisations. The primary intention is for these recommendations to be used by Marninwarntikura as it produces a body of evidenced work to break cycles of intergenerational trauma, and ground its programs and development strategies in empowerment based community-driven approaches.


Jane Pedersen

Jane Pedersen


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