Navigating family violence in First Nations communities

  • Emu and southern cross
    [Image: Naskies at en.wikipedia]
  • Kyalie Moore, a proud Yamatji-Noongar woman, and Josh Wanganeen, a proud Yorta Yorta, Kokitha, Kaurna and Narrungga man
    Kyalie Moore, a proud Yamatji-Noongar woman, and Josh Wanganeen, a proud Yorta Yorta, Kokitha, Kaurna and Narrungga man
No to Violence
Kyalie Moore,
Boomerang Consultancy;
Josh Wanganeen,
Dungullah Dreaming

The Southern Cross has been used as a navigation tool by First Nations peoples for tens of thousands of years.

Today, the Southern Cross is providing a different kind of guidance: a model for training community service providers to effectively engage and work with men who use family violence in First Nations communities.

No to Violence is the national peak body for organisations that work with men who use family violence. We provide training, sector development, advocacy, and direct counselling and referrals.

Identifying a need to improve the way we work with First Nations communities to address family violence, in 2018 No to Violence embarked on a project funded under the Australian Government’s Regional and Remote Perpetrators Innovation Fund.

From this, the Southern Cross Model was born.

The model references the Emu Dreaming story, which describes the emu’s journey to different points of the Southern Cross to experience different states of being. The emu begins in the centre and then travels to the west coast in the winter, moving across so much land he becomes exhausted. This is the Tiring Emu.

Then emu then travels north, where he is still very tired. He stays there and sleeps. This is the Sleeping Emu.

Then he travels east, where First Nations people meet him and help him wake up. He is supported by the people around him. They hold him up and help him walk, holding on to him until he feels empowered – this is Waking Emu.

Then emu flies south. He is strong, empowered and vibrant. The community sees him and wants to be like him. This is Flying Emu.

Through the Southern Cross Model, this idea of moving through different phases of being can also be applied to working with First Nations men who use violence.

The Tiring Emu has parallels with a family violence practitioner forcing men to change, placing too many demands on them, which can make clients tired and disconnected and also tire the worker.

The Sleeping Emu is when a practitioner makes it easy for the man to not be accountable for his behaviour, doing all the work for him, wanting to be liked so the man comes back to the service.

The Waking Emu is when a practitioner connects with their client and engages in deep listening (dadirri) – listening to the man’s story and what his thoughts and attitudes are, spending time understanding what he is saying, building a relationship and creating a safe space for him to be vulnerable.

When the model is working, the man should reach the point where he starts to feel motivated to move towards his personal goals of change and feels supported to get there.

The Flying Emu is when the practitioner and client have collaborative dialogue (yarning two ways); the practitioner is supporting, holding and listening while also challenging the man and monitoring his level of motivation to change.

At this stage, the man should be open to having his thoughts challenged. He is respectful; he feels empowered as the worker has created a safe space.

When men are empowered, motivated, respected and have goals, they can fly.

The Southern Cross Model balances compassion and accountability. It is a sophisticated, culturally safe practice that supports behaviour change in First Nations men who have used violence. It keeps women, children and communities safe.

Over the past three years we have delivered this training to around 1000 family violence practitioners across the country. The model has been evaluated with positive results. And we continue to receive feedback from participants using this model, who tell us it has shifted their practice and increased their capacity and confidence to engage with men.

We look forward to continuing to roll this training out across the country to help build strong, safe, healthy and resilient communities.

If you are worried about your own or someone else’s behaviour, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

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