First Day of Conference- November 19, 2018

Today was our first day of conferences and it began with a wonderful warm welcome to the land, the community and the conference. Dr. Richard Walley began by paying a tribute to the ocean, the dolphins and a celebration of life through a didgeridoo. We were brought outside to take part in a smoking ceremony, which is very similar to our smudging ceremonies in Canada.

Sand wood was burned and several elder women personally welcomed every individual attending the conference. It was wonderful to be in front of the ocean, taking part in a ceremony that was so similar to Canada. We were welcomed through three dances: a good spirit dance, a creation dance and an inclusion dance. The spirit dance represented the love between family and their surroundings. The creation dance represented the life of Kangaroos, Elephants and Black Swans in Australia. The inclusion dance was open to any individual who wanted to participate. It was moving seeing the many different people from different cultures get up and participate in a cultural dance that was not of their own, and do so with such love and happiness. The room lit up with joy, and everyone who chose not to dance was still involved by clapping to the rhythm. The welcome wrapped up with an introduction to the 20 clinical psychologists, counsellors, members of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing foundation and traditional healers.

Panel 1 introduced Professor Tom Calma, Professor Helen Milroy and Pat Turner. Each discussed the need for community leadership and involvement and the impact of life for children. The concurrent sessions were divided into 6 conference rooms with 15 presentations over an hour and a half. The conference allows everyone to choose which presentations they wish to attend. I attended the “Hope after the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse” by Helen Milroy, and the “National Suicide Prevention Implementation Strategy – priority actions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People” by Dr. Vanessa Lee. Panel 2 introduced Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, Rebecca Johnson, Youth Ethan Taylor, and two Canadians, Professor Malcolm King and Dr. Alexandra King. Each discussed the impact of HIV on our people, the importance of including LGBTIQ people into their own community and the importance of youth having a voice. The final concurrent sessions of the day included 14 presentations. I chose to attend “Ngulluk Koolunga Ngulluk Koort (Our Children Our Heart),” “CAMHS – Aboriginal Mental Health Services (Child and Adolescent Mental Health)” and “Working with Trauma informed social care system – utilizing three phased, cultural and strength-based approaches to care.” 

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations I attended today as they were all focusing on children and how to assist them in becoming our future. Each presenter discussed the importance of youth having a voice in order for our communities to move forward. I loved being surrounded by hundreds of people who all shared the same concerns, and emotions towards our past, present and future. 

Alyssa Hoey