australian outback

‘Connecting in Time and Place’ With Michelle Bates

Michelle Bates had spent most of her life in Sydney’s South West raising a family, but something else was calling her to the outback.  Moving to Tennant Creek for a short stint helping Aboriginal people understand and implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme Plan, Michelle found herself putting down roots after falling in the love with the colours, the country and the stories of the Warumungu people.

Among her various roles in Tennant Creek, Michelle is a counsellor and narrative practitioner, advocate, mentor and leader.  She volunteers at the Paterson Street Hub, a collective space in the main street of Tennant Creek which offers safety and opportunities for learning, sharing and contribution.  This is a delightful interview of what its like to fall in love with a place and do the work that you really love.

In Episode 34 of ‘Talk the Walk’ we explore:

  • What drew Michelle to Tennant Creek to find an anchored adventure and what keeps her there
  • The history of Michelle’s connection to working towards systems change and living well in community together
  • The impact of connection to place and the role of nurturing women on Michelle’s early life and its resonance in remote Australia
  • A narrative project unearthing the wisdom of Aboriginal children in story and play, witnessed by important adults in their lives
  • What it means to children to uncover stories about the things that are important to them in childhood 
  •  An opportunity for listeners to provide outsider witness responses to the stories of Tennant Creek children
  • Key values and qualities needed to work with children in remote communities
  • The story of Patterson St Hub, a thriving inspiring gathering place for community members
  • The challenges of living and working remotely and how struggles become rich opportunities for growth
  • The small sparkling moments of resistance that makes Michelle’s day
Listen to Stitcher

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You can also subscribe to podcast and blog updates via email from the Menu on the Home Page.

Don’t forget, if you or someone you know would make a great interview on ‘Talk the Walk’, send us an email from the Contact Page.

Things to Follow up After the Episode

Michelle’s Masters project through The Dulwich Centre (link to be provided when available)

Patterson St Hub, Tennant Creek website

Patterson St hub on Instagram

Michelle Bates on Instagram

Connect with Michelle Bates on LinkedIn

Email Michelle at michelle.bates@ymail.com

stories matter

Facing the Climate Crisis: What’s Your Story?

As many of you know, I am all about story.

At the heart of narrative therapy is listening to the problem stories of people’s lives.

Right now, I am hearing stories of young people being crippled by eco-anxiety, feeling despair at the future that unfolds for themselves and future generations.  I am hearing stories of despair and sadness at the unfolding crisis on our planet and frustration through lack of climate action by our leaders.  I am hearing stories of the sense of powerless people feel over the melting ice-caps, the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species. 

According to Joanna Macy, we are now seeing and understanding what is happening in the world through the lens of three main stories or versions of reality.  The Business As Usual story is the one that has people living the way they always have, with economic growth and getting ahead as its goal.  The story of the Great Unraveling acknowledges the disastrous consequences of living by the Business as Usual story, through the collapse of biological, ecological, economic and social systems.  The Great Turning is the story being created by those who recognise the Great Unravelling and are rising to create a different future for our planet.  Joanne argues that there is truth in all these stories.  They are all happening right now.  And we can choose where we put our attention.

While the ‘doom and gloom’ problem story is getting lots of airplay, as a narrative therapist, I am also interested in shining the light on the alternative story.  For it is in feeling despair and sorrow for the planet, that we can speak about our preferences for living. It is in losing hope that we can speak to the kind of future that we wish for.  It is in feeling the pain that we can speak about the values that are so precious to us. 

In 2020, my goal is to uncover the alternative stories of people’s lives around the climate crisis, unearthing the ways they are surviving and thriving, living out their true values and taking action.  The intention in collecting and publishing these stories is to give richer attention to the Great Unravelling that is happening across our communities.  Perhaps these stories will bring back hope to someone who has lost theirs and cannot pull themselves up out of the pit of depression or anxiety.

I am looking for people just like you to share your story.  I would love to speak with you about your relationship with the planet, how you are standing strong in the face of uncertain times and explore opportunities for developing superpowers for future actions. 

Just to be clear, you do not have to have a big story, you may not feel you are changing the world or even coping all that well with the climate crisis.  I envisage that my reflective interview questions will be a therapeutic and healing process for you, as we give voice to the downs and unearth the ups together.

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch and I will send you some questions inviting your written response, to become part of a narrative collective document on Facing the Climate Crisis Together.

Josephine_Lee_Family

‘Continuing the Bold and the Beautiful’ with Josephine Lee

The bold and beautiful Josephine Lee

Welcome back to Part 2 of my conversation with Josephine Lee, an inspiring Senior Aboriginal Social worker who has traversed all breadth of social work and currently finds herself supporting children, families and schools in remote parts of the NT.

We are often told that we can’t change the world, even though we enter social work to do just that.  After listening to this conversation with Josephine, you will walk away with renewed belief that change really IS possible!

Be prepared to be confronted and have your white middle class assumptions challenged, as we head into part two of my conversation with Josephine.

While it was an easy decision for me to interview Josephine surrounded by the beauty of nature, doing so means being open to the elements.  So I apologise for the sound quality at those times when the wind picked up.

This episode covers:

  • Why Josephine is very comfortable with who she is and what she has to offer the world
  • What it’s like to walk to two worlds and how it impacts on Josephine’s work
  • Racism in social work
  • Why politeness goes out the window so Josephine can be the best she can be as a human being
  • The importance of holding adults accountable for the harm they have caused
  • Strengthening the voices of compassion and human decency
  • How to be a change agent for the right reasons
  • How boldness can help us all shine in the world
  • Authentic warrior-like self care for practitioners with a trauma history
  • Establishing authentic connection in this risk-averse world
  • The gifts of ‘Kuleana’ from Hawaii and ‘Dadirri’ from Daly River for living and working authentically
  • Our responsibilities for ourselves, each other and the planet
  • Packing the essential sense of humour and relishing moments of joy
  • Reflections on suicide in Aboriginal communities and society’s response

We hope you enjoy this episode of ‘Talk the Walk’.  And if you or someone you know would make a great interview on ‘Talk the Walk’ send us an email from the Contact Page.
Warning:  occasional explicit language.
Just click on the Play Button below and enjoy!  We hope to have ‘Talk the Walk’ listed on popular podcatchers like iTunes very soon.  Or subscribe by email via our Home Page.

Things to follow up after the podcast

In the song ‘What a Wonderful World’, Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole uses the word “Kuleana“.

Josephine says “Kuleana is the value of responsibility.  It drives self-motivation and self-reliance, for the desire to act comes from accepting our responsibility with deliberate intent and with diligence.  We want to be held accountable.  Responsibility seeks opportunity. Reciprocal relationship between the person who is responsible, and the thing which they are responsible for.”

About Desmond Tutu 

About Nelson Mandela

About Barack Obama 

A Truly Civil Society by Eva Cox, 1995 Boyer Lectures

Josephine saysThis book and many other writers that I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to or read in depth, raised further my awareness around “don’t forget that humans have constructed society”, the busyness, franticness and dehumanising processes. It can be deconstructed and reconstructed.”

Aboriginal Social Work writers that have influenced Josephine’s practice:

Connect with Josephine Lee on Linked In

An artists interpretation of family surrounded by wild waters.

‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ with Josephine Lee

The bold and beautiful, Josephine Lee

My guest on Episode 3 of ‘Talk the Walk’ is Josephine Lee. Josephine is a Gudjula woman from North Queensland whose social worker career spands almost 30 years.  Jo is committed to anti-oppressive, anti-racist, therapeutic and relationship-based practices as well as creative and hope-focused practices.
In true traditional style, this ended up feeling like a yarn around the campfire, than an interview.  Josephine takes us on a deep journey into her life growing up and how this has shaped the person she is today.  Her biggest influences on her social work practice is life itself.  This includes in her words

“moments of suffering that you think you cannot get through; moments of joy that you think you cannot believe has happened; good people; lessons learnt from bad; being given opportunities; being brave to take up the opportunities; forgiving yourself when you stuff up, learn and grow; kindness is a strength; beautiful art, music, writing, and so many things that have contributed to hope focussed approach; talk with belief, especially to those who have given up.”

It was truly a privilege to hear Josephine’s raw and honest account of the struggles in life and work.  Josephine is unashamedly and unapologetically frank in her assessment of the state of social work and humanity on the planet.  If you want to hear the brutal truth about what an Aboriginal social worker really thinks about our white middle class profession, but in a gentle kind way, then you’re in the right place.
This episode explores:
• What is hope-focused practice and how it differs from strengths based practice
• The impact of Aboriginal policy and racism on Jo’s family history which ultimately shapes her practice and her life
• Jo’s view of the world as a ‘social justice cake’
• The circumstances that led to Jo taking up social work as a career
• Jo’s reflection on her own personal experience of social workers involved in her childhood
• Lessons on responsibility and what social justice in action really means
• Special photos that have significance to Jo’s life and work (see below)
• Child removal as the impact of colonisation
• Cautions for social workers following the current trends in treatment without bringing a cultural lens and critical reflection
• The traps that white middle class social workers might fall into which leads to hopelessness and helplessness
• A blunt warning for social workers who don’t enter Aboriginal communities with respect
• What it means to walk alongside someone on a painful but healing journey of self discovery for deep nourishment and flourishment to happen
• The power of narrative therapy in working with Indigenous clients
• What is reflective social work practice REALLY
• Black empowerment theory and why it’s greater than feminist theory

“If you walk softly on this Mother Earth, you have tried your best to take care for her, and all life, and you did so with dignity and grace — that is a truly well-lived life.”Josephine Lee, July 2017

Josephine speaks about the following photographs in this interview.

Josephine’s maternal side of the family.

Josephine with her mother and siblings.

An artists interpretation of family surrounded by wild waters.

The picture a client identified as to what being happy with life looks like.

Please note, due to the length of this interview, it has been split into two parts.  Tune in next week to hear the final part of our conversation.
Warning: occasional explicit language.
Just click on the Play Button below and enjoy!  We hope to have ‘Talk the Walk’ listed on popular podcatchers like iTunes very soon.  Or subscribe by email via our Home Page.
Don’t forget, if you or someone you know would make a great interview on ‘Talk the Walk’ send us an email from the Contact Page.

Things to follow up after the episode

Various Books by Christine Fejo King

About Wayne McCashen

‘Black Empowerment: Social Work in Oppressed Communities’ by African American social worker, Barbara Bryant Solomon