While I am gearing up to undertake the first Forest Therapy* course offered on Australian soil down in the Yarra Ranges this week, it seems the interest in ecotherapeutic approaches to health and wellbeing is growing rapidly. While the Western world is just catching up with the scientific evidence to prove nature can heal us from the social ills of overconsumption and environmental degradation, Indigenous cultures across the world have always known of the healing power of nature. For many years I’ve heard Elders from the Tiwi Islands prescribe ‘going out bush’ as the best treatment for mental health problems and young people who are going off the rails, rather than traditional talk therapies. Leonie Hunter of the Tiwi islands is my guest on ‘Talk the Walk’ this week. With knowledge and wisdom passed down to her from family and a passion for understanding mental health in the 21st century, Leonie unpacks what ‘nature as healer’ means to the oldest culture in the world.
In this week’s episode, we explore:
- the history of how Tiwi people have been using nature in healing ways
- what parts of nature are used in traditional healing methods
- the power of listening to the external and internal
- healing physical ailments and the emotional self with bush medicine
- what excites Leonie most about using bush therapy
- how Leonie came to learn cultural healing knowledge and skills in nature
- Leonie’s encounter with respected Kakadu elder Bill Neidjie
- Key messages from nature for our lives today
The effects of not looking after the environment and the impact of stress on Aboriginal people’s health
- the benefits of nature for children and Leonie’s dream of developing healing camps for youth
- Leonie’s personal experience of the healing power of nature
- Nature as a helper in the grieving process
- Adopting traditional healing methods in the health system
- Tips for non-Indigenous social workers who want to help Aboriginal clients access traditional healing in their recovery
This interview was conducted in nature. We don’t apologise for that, but the sound quality is affected by the wind in some areas (sorry!)
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Things to follow up after the episode
*Forest Therapy is a term coined by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy
Bill Neidjie – Author of ‘Story about Feeling’, ‘Gagudju Man’ and ‘Old Man’s Story’