Workers need to look after themselves too
Aboriginal Health Workers and Social and Emotional Wellbeing Workers are usually part of the communities they service and encounter the same degree of grief and loss.
One senior Aboriginal counsellor explained,
I’ve been watching my mob burn out…and I’m thinking to myself well maybe if I look after myself and do my own grieving processes I can last longer than 60… We (Aboriginal workers) have a right, a role and a responsibility to care for ourselves first and foremost so that we are there for 20 years down the track.
Professional support for workers
Aboriginal workers require emotional support as well as cultural support and professional development opportunities.
- Many SEWB workers look after each other by developing strategies for keeping an eye on each other and supporting each other through debriefing sessions and coffee-breaks, as needed. Some join informal support groups of fellow counsellors and social workers. These groups allow for the discussion of critical incidents and helpful debriefing without compromising client or colleague confidentiality.
- Bereavement Leave Entitlements are part of the cultural support that is important for Aboriginal Health Workers, as staff have responsibilities for attending particular funerals as members of families and communities.
- Appropriate bereavement leave is flexible and allows for attendance at funerals of immediate and extended family members and significant others. In certain cases this may include funerals of particular clients.
- Professional Development of workers needs to provide access to recommended courses such as:
- The Diploma in Narrative Approaches
- The Certificate II in Family Wellbeing
- Tracey Westerman’s 2 day course in Suicide Prevention in Aboriginal Communities
“Participants will walk away with a unique and practical understanding of how to engage effectively with suicidal Aboriginal clients; how to translate differences in the nature of Aboriginal suicide into effective intervention and risk assessment and more.”
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Program (CHCCS521B)
An experienced counsellor explained how the first two of the courses listed contributed to her becoming a rounded and effective therapist.
When people would tell me their stories it would hurt me so much and I would get caught up in how it must be for them. But Narrative Approaches was a very good program in making me aware that my job as a counsellor is to look at what courage, what strength, what knowledge did they have to be able to be here today and tell me this… (Doing the Certificate II in Family Wellbeing) gave the opportunity, as lecturers, to have individual counselling so through that I was unpacking all my issues as well and getting the opportunity to get healed in that way. It allowed you to take your own journey as well.
Stories for keeping strong, keeping yourself healed.
This short film has been created for Aboriginal workers to promote the importance of looking after yourself so that you may sustain and enjoy your job and support your community to the best of your ability.