Community Assignments

Neighbouring Communities Project

This report on a community assignment with the Six Nations/Caledonia communities in Ontario, Canada, describes a local initiative to address the consequences of trauma experienced by the people of these communities. This trauma is an outcome of conflict over land treaty issues. This community assignment was shaped by narrative practices, and was undertaken in March 2007.

Community Document 2007

This document is the property of the Six Nations and Caledonia Communities. Please distribute this document widely and intact. If you have questions please email Scot Cooper:

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Community Document downloadable at:


Community Assignments and Teaching in Indigenous Contexts.

The following reflects some of the history of the involvement of NPA members in a range of Community Assignments over the past two decades.

Teaching the Narrative approach in Aboriginal contexts has been a significant thread of this work since 2001.

(See: Pedagogy Shaped by Culture: Teaching Narrative Approaches to Australian Aboriginal Health Workers. Carey, M., Russell. 2011. Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol. 30, No. 3, 2011, pp. 26–41)


Community Assignments

1994 Reclaiming Our Stories, Reclaiming Our Lives. A counselling project initiated by the Aboriginal Health Council for families in South Australia, who had lost a loved one through a Death in Custody.

Maggie Carey and Shona Russell were members of the counselling team led by Michael White and were directly involved in a three month consultation phase of this project in partnership with Aboriginal colleagues Rosie Howsen, Barb Wingard and Trevor Graham. Maggie and Shona (along with Michael, Rosie, Barb, Vanessa Swan and Ian Law) were also responsible for delivery of the counselling response in the context of the week long gathering at Camp Coorong.

(See: Reclaiming Our Stories, Reclaiming Our Lives. Aboriginal Health Council of SA, 1995)


1995 Speaking Out and Being Heard. A counselling project in collaboration with the South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS) for consumers and carers of mental health services in South Australia.

Maggie Carey along with Anne Bourne, Maria Bamford, David Denborough, Jussey Harbord, Laurie Lever and Ginny Slattery was a member of the counselling team led by Michael White for a two-day gathering that documented the voices of mental health consumers and carers.

(See: Speaking Out and Being Heard. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, 1995, No. 4)


1998 A series of Community Gatherings for Women and Children who had experienced violence. Adelaide Central Mission (now known as Uniting Communities).

Through New Initiative funding, a series of three two-day gatherings were held at Kuipto as a counselling response to developing a sense of community with women and children who had experienced violence in heterosexual relationships. The second of these gatherings responded to same-sex mothers and their children who had experienced violence in heterosexual relationships; and the third gathering focused particularly on the experience of young mothers and their children. As team leader of Counselling Services, Maggie Carey initiated, developed, and along with Shona Russell and a large team of narrative counsellors from a range of agencies, facilitated this community project. (See Communities of Shared Experience, Gecko, 1998: volume 1.

Escaping the Effects of Violence: Therapeutic Gatherings with Mothers and Their Children Carey, M. 1999. In Once upon a Time… Narrative Therapy with Children and Their Families. Ed. Alice Morgan. (DCP, Adelaide, South Australia)


1998 Consultation in collaboration with homeless adolescents who had been sexually abused.

Maxine Joy and Rob Hall were engaged by reference group of the Youth Supported Accommodation Assistance Programs to find innovative ways to effectively give voice to the concerns, wishes, practical accommodation needs of a group of young people who had “lived a life of betrayals and disappointments by adults” (p.4). They used unconventional approaches aimed at maximising accessibility, confidentiality and dignity for the young people they consulted. They were able to access young people’s opinions about a range of matters including some very nuanced views that made significance differences to recommendations and subsequent service development.

(See: Appropriate Service Responses to Assist Young People Who Are Homeless and Have been Sexually Abused: A report based on consultation with consumers of SAAP Metropolitan Youth Accommodation Services, Prepared by Maxine Joy and Rob Hall of Nada in collaboration with the Child Sexual Abuse Reference Group , May 1998)


1999 Community Gathering for Young Homeless Men: dealing with issues of violence. This project was funded by the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs as the ‘Kool It Program for domestic violence prevention for Young Homeless Men.’ The program was run through Adelaide Central Mission's Counselling Services with the support of the Brisbane-based Young Men's Antiviolence Project. David Tully was the Project person for the ‘Kool It’ project, with the program being run by David and Patrick O'Leary. As a counsellor at Adelaide Central Mission, Maggie Carey brought her experience in community assignments using a narrative approach, to this project. Mark Trudinger and Cameron Boyd from the Brisbane-based ‘Young men's Anti-Violence Project’ completed the counselling team involved in the gathering component of this project.

(See: A gathering for young homeless men: Dealing with issues of violence. Carey, M. Trudinger, M., Tully, D., O’Leary, P., and Boyd, C. In Homelessness, Dulwich Centre Journal, No. 3 1999)


1992-1999 Community Mental Health Project offered therapeutic conversations, group work and community support for people living with severe mental health difficulties. The project which focussed on collaborative and consultative ways of working with service users was run through Dulwich Centre. Shona Russell was the co-ordinator of this project.

(See: Power to Our Journeys: Re-membering Michael. Members of the power To Our Journeys group, Jussey Verco and Shona Russell.

Companions on a Journey. An exploration of an alternative community mental health project. Dulwich centre newsletter 1997 No.1)


2001 Link-Up Gathering: Linking our stories, Healing our lives. This community project was initiated at the request of clients of Linkup, a program that supports members of the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal people to reconnect with their families. Staff of Link-Up were familiar with narrative community practices and invited Maggie Carey to facilitate a community gathering over two days. The program was developed from consultations with a reference group and the staff of Link-Up. The ideas and stories shared in these consultations were woven into three themes: ‘Sharing our Stories’, ‘Out of our losses grow stories of survival’, & ‘What we know about Home’.


2002 The Narrandera Koori Community Gathering. During consultations over the six months before this community gathering, a number of talks took place with the Aboriginal people of Narrandera in which some of the problems and worries facing the community were explored. In these consultations it also became apparent that there were strengths and resources and problemsolving skills within the community and special knowledges about life that people in the community have. These problem-solving skills and special knowledges come from people's families and from the history of the community. Some of these come from the special traditions and the spirituality of the Wiradjuri people.

From these talks it became clearer that the people of the community already knew a lot more than they sometimes realised. There are strengths, resources, problem-solving skills, and special knowledges about life that exist within the community. The gathering was planned to help community members to see these more clearly.

The gathering was designed as an opportunity for people to tell stories and to talk about some of the important knowledges and skills which can help with the problems and worries of the community. (Taken from write-up of the gathering.

Shona Russell and Maggie Carey joined Michael White and Barb Wingard to form a ‘listening group’/ counselling team for this gathering.


2005 A Response to Workers at the Acid Survivors Foundation, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A community response was structured according to narrative ideas by Shona Russell to explore ways of dealing with the psychological consequences of working with survivors of acid violence. This provided staff with an opportunity to speak about what is important for them in their work, to explore ways in they were already responding to the impact of the work on them, and to consider some new possibilities. A document was developed outlining the skills, knowledge, experience and values of workers at the Acid Survivors Foundation. (See: The values of this work: Supporting workers’ experience at the 3 Acid Survivors Foundation (Bangladesh). Russell, S. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 2005 Nos. 3 & 4)


2006 Children, Parents and Mental Health Project. Shona Russell coordinated this project that gathered stories from young people and adults whose parents have had serious mental health difficulties. Stories were gathered that relate to the experience of children whose parents or carers have/had serious mental health difficulties. These stories not only richly acknowledge the difficulties faced, but also the skills and knowledge of children in these situations and the many different facets of the relationships between parents and child. Many examples are included of the ways in which parents with serious mental health concerns continue to love and cherish their children, and also ways in which other significant figures in children’s lives play important caring roles during times of crisis. (See Gathering stories about growing up with a parent with mental health difficulties. Russell, S. (2006) International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 3: 59-67.)


2006 A Community Gathering: Living with Difference. Roscommon, Ireland This community gathering was an opportunity for people to come together to share their experiences of living with the difference of disability. In collaboration with the Irish Wheelchair Association and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, Maggie Carey facilitated a week- long gathering in which a group of Peer Counsellors trained in the narrative approach, and themselves living with disability, formed a counselling team to respond to the stories of other people living with disability. The knowledges and skills that people had developed to live with this difference were gathered together and an opportunity was created for people to have their stories acknowledged through sharing them with an audience of peers.

This gathering was seen as a chance to hear about and to document what is important to participants in how they want to be able to live their lives. It was anticipated that it would be useful to have such a document in order to share with others the skills and knowledges and understandings of life that have been developed by this group in responding to living with disability. (See A Community Gathering: Living with Difference. Roscommon September 2006. Carey, M.)


TEACHING EXPERIENCE - specifically related to engaging communities, groups and community assignments as shaped by narrative practice.

2001 - present Maggie Carey and Shona Russell. Key external trainers in the two year, nationally accredited Diploma of Narrative Approaches for Aboriginal People (Counselling, Group and Community Work).

This Vocational Education Training (Vet Sector) Diploma is run through Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia, which is a community-controlled Indigenous health service in Adelaide. It is specifically for Aboriginal health workers. The Narrative approach is recognised by Aboriginal Communities throughout Australia as the approach that best suits the needs of Aboriginal workers, and participants on the course are drawn from all over Australia.

A framework of practice is offered to Aboriginal health workers that locates the present day experience of many Aboriginal communities as a consequence of the trauma of colonisation, dispossession, and the ongoing impact of racism, while at the same time bringing forward stories of survival and resistance at both a cultural and personal level. From a Narrative perspective it is these stories of survival and resistance, and the skills and local knowledges, that constitute survival that are at the heart of this course.

This Course has followed from the work of Michael White and the partnerships made with Aboriginal colleagues and communities throughout Australia.

(See: Pedagogy Shaped by Culture: Teaching Narrative Approaches to Australian Aboriginal Health Workers. Carey, M., Russell. 2011. Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol. 30, No. 3, 2011, pp. 26–41)


2006 Maggie Carey & Jannike Fogh Narrative Workshop at Masiye Camp, Zimbabwe for workers responding collectively to children who had lost parents to HIV AIDS.


2006 - 2011 Shona Russell provided an extended series of workshops with Treatment Centre for Torture and Trauma, Ramallah, Palestine.


2007 Community engagement – a narrative approach. Shona Russell. 2 day workshop for Relationships Australia


2009 Narrative approaches to working with Stolen Generations - families and communities. LinkUp National Conference workshop Broome, 2009. Shona Russell 2 day workshop


2010 Narrative Practices in work with groups and communities – Shona Russell 5 day workshop for Mediat Coaching Paris, France


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