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New Ground

Welcome to the full May 2016 edition of CASSE's Aboriginal Australian Relations Program newsletter! 

I spent last week at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference. There was a palpable emotional connection between conference participants, and a togetherness swelling from the tide of suicides which has touched, no doubt, all participants. Hopelessness, helplessness and deathly feelings pervaded the conference. And then there was hope.

I spoke to the lacerating grief also, saying: “There is haemorrhaging pain and a rolling, volcanic rage which can be carried unknowingly, safely underground, colonising, and finally exploding into molten action and lethal death.”

Stan Grant in a keynote address spoke powerfully to the pain:
"I just want to know how to sleep at night.” The old man had come in from the bush to Alice Springs for this suicide prevention conference. He has lost a nephew and a grandson to suicide. Like so many of our people across this country he is mourning another lost generation. He is not alone here. Brother, sisters, sons and daughters have all gone before their time. Each have their own story but together we share a sadness that stretches across the centuries. My friend Ernie Dingo told me of his meeting with this old man. "I just want to know how to sleep at night. “Ernie said it hit him in the heart. The old man wasn't speaking just of suicide, he spoke to the sleeplessness of a people who are struggling to hold ourselves against the world…”

Stan then spoke to the transformational possibilities of the wounded heart by sharing painful stories together: “We are here today in the face of grief, sharing our stories to help lift our hearts again”.

In the face of healing, there can be new ground found and it is time to find new ground. I think you will find the men in Central Australia are finding new ground and voices to articulate the new ground, new growth against the daily shadows of death, which can darken the soul and mind inside and darken the reality of daily lives outside. In this newsletter you will see a glimpse of this new ground. The men together are finding talking spaces on cultural ground, on country, in soul and mind and actually walking it, naming their searing pain of old and of now, recognising the lethality of their violent actions, affirming the value of family and friends and Countrymen, talking in their language, young and old together, the language of ancestors, as they struggle to live in two worlds and find a new world from dispossession, collapse, collisions and endings.

Stan Grant spoke to Jonathan Lear’s book, 'Radical Hope', when he spoke of lifting hearts:

Before he died the great Crow Indian chief Plenty Coups spoke words that speak to our hearts too.

He said when the buffalo died, his people's hearts fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After that he said: "Nothing happened."

Plenty Coups however had a dream and I refer again to Radical Hope:


Plenty Coups had a dream and in one part he was invited to look at a very old man sitting in the shade of a particular tree. Then there is a tremendous storm and all but one tree is knocked down.

“Listen Plenty-Coups,” said a voice. “In that tree is the lodge of the Chickadee. He is least in strength but strongest of mind among his kind. He is willing to work for wisdom. The Chickadee-person is a good listener. Nothing escapes his ears, which he has sharpened by constant use. Whenever others are talking together of their successes and failures, there you will find the Chickadee-person listening to their words. But in all his listening he tends to his business. He never intrudes, never speaks in strange company, and yet never misses a chance to learn from others….It is the mind that leads a man to power, not strength of body.” (p.70-71, Radical Hope).

Kenny Lechleitner, facilitator of the CASSE/CAAC Breakthrough Violence Program, said in the session last week: “Learning is the new ‘hunting and gathering’ that Aboriginal men need to get better at”.

Learning, emotional learning, through listening and talking, can find new ground in the mind.

Pamela Nathan

Director, CASSE Aboriginal Australian Relations Program


Suicide Conference

Martin Jugadai presenting in language at the conference, with Nathan Brown interpreting and Jamie Millier Tjupurrula

CASSE presented a joint presentation on the Men's Tjilirra Movement (MTM) with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) at the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference, which was held in Alice Springs on the 6th and 7th May, 2016.

The Men’s Tjilirra Movement spoke to the audience and their voices were heard in the short video shown. Martin Juggadai, Ngangkari and Cultural Consultant to RFDS spoke strongly in Luritja and Nathan Brown (Cultural Consultant and Interpreter, CASSE) translated. David Beveridge (Senior Mental Health Clinician, RFDS) and Jamie Millier Tjupurulla (Men's Tjilirra Movement Program manager, CASSE) both spoke to the beginnings of The MTM and the clinical and manual therapeutic work and relationships which form a core part of the Men’s Tjilirra Movement.

Resounding applause concluded the session.

We look forward to reading the recommendations from this conference, which will be posted on their website in due course, along with CASSE's presentation:  http://www.atsispep.sis.uwa.edu.au/natsispc-2016

Martin Jugadai (left) presents in language with Nathan Brown interpreting



Nathan Brown, Martin Jugadai and Jamie Millier Tjupurrula after the conference

Tjilirra on display at the conference

CASSE in the news!


Men's Shed Update

CASSE is delighted to announce the position of Research Officer, CASSE/CAAC for the Alice Springs Men's Shed Research Project has been filled by the well-known and highly respected Ken Lechleitner - who is the son of the man - kwemenje - Pamela Nathan worked with many years ago.

Breakthrough Violence Group

Membership of the Breakthrough Violence Group has grown from 15 to 30 men - a proud achievment for CASSE/CAAC! The group has now been running for 2 months. The meetings are lively and thoughtful. The facilitators Philip Ward and Gerard Waterford - CAAC clinicians - have been doing a sterling job. Ken worked alongside Gerard on his first day on the job and spoke four languages - English, Arrernte, Anmatjerre, Warlpiri - and a strong cultural foundation straddling two worlds informed his talk.

The week on mentalisation (psychoanalytic frame) took the men by storm and Philip reported:

I had no idea that my story which was meant to be directly related to mentalisation created such a diverse and interesting conversation with the group. After an hour and a half of wonderful conversations, where many participants became involved, we decided to have a break and I thought I would recap my interpretations about ‘mentalisation’ afterwards. I was overwhelmed with participants approaching me during the break and it was obvious that they were intrigued with the conversations. I noted some of the conversations during the break and brought such conversations back to the group. One man said; “It is important for me to learn when I am in prison and do the same thing when I go home, like cleaning”.


Men's Tjilirra Movement Update

  • In just two weeks in April 70 men were engaged with the MTM
  • Ten objects complete and six nearly complete

Welcome to Nathan Brown - CASSE's Cultural Consultant and Translator - who is working alongside Jamie Millier Tjupurrula. Speaking Lurtija, Yankunytjatjara and Pitjatjantjarra, Nathan is able to speak to the men in language, the men are able to speak in language and be understood and have their voices translated. Nathan spoke to the men about suicide in language:


I spoke with many people about suicide. I had had a thought regarding the cultural and linguistic lenses mainstream Australians view Aboriginal suicide. I wondered if the prevalence of suicide in Anangu communities might have something to do with how much Anangu people live in the present with very little thought for the future. There is also no Lurritja word that I am aware of (or in any dictionary, even of related languages, that I can find) for suicide. I spoke with some people about the young boy who had committed suicide recently and the consensus amongst those I spoke to was that malevolent forces (ie the devil) was responsible… I spoke with two old people who had said that in the old days there was no suicide… Another young lady also said that suicide was ‘a whitefella thing.’ I also spoke with a young man who had contemplated suicide while going through a relationship breakdown about what he was thinking at the time… He said amongst other things that he relented on the idea after talking to someone outside his family. While talking he realised that he ‘wanted to live.’

Domestic violence

During the course of the morning Martin told us that two boys had expressed interest in making spears. We took a group of men and these two boys out to get spears. One of the young boys was a ngangkari and was extremely interested and active throughout the trip. Jamie and he also connected well after Jamie explained to him that he had learned tool-making skills from a ngangkari himself. We also had a chat with a man who has recently been released from jail about domestic violence as we suspected he may have been involved in a similar incident recently. It was a great trip, excellent vibes and very productive.

And words from Jamie Millier Tjupurrula at work on lightening the problem and the enthusiasm of the men:

I explained to X that I’d found a kali for him. He was very excited and wanted to start work on it straight away. Whilst sitting with X, teaching him how to make the kali and showing him the faults in the wood that he had to be careful of. Whilst making the boomerang I spoke to X about the reason behind making tjilirra for men in the area and how it created a space for men to speak freely about issues if they had them. I explained to him that whilst making tjilirra it seemed to be that people could speak easier and I explained that as we speak to someone else about an issue, from a mouth to someone else’s ear, that the weight of that problem starts to get less. As we were making the kali I could see the happiness that it brought to him. And he explained to me that he wanted to make a full set of tjilirra now that he’s started something. We continued to work on the kali and another man that I had worked with once before came along and started chipping away on another piece of wood we had available. X’s kali was three quarters finished in that session with me helping on the way. I felt X had a really good time making kali and listening to me speak behind the ideals of making tjilirra. As it was getting late and the light disappeared we stopped work.



CASSE is very pleased to announce a renewal of the partnership with Community Development Program (CDP), Alice Springs, re the Men's Tjilirra Movement, which is now a recognised program for the men to engage and work.


Our Booklets


In case you missed them in previous newsletters, CASSE's newest booklets are now on sale and will be available at the Freud Conference and then for a limited time through Readings Bookshop...

Recognition - a matter of life and death in Aboriginal Australia

CASSE's newest booklet, written in preparation for the Sydney Ideas Event, ‘What is Recognition?' contributes a psychological voice to the conversation on constitutional reform in Australia. Click here for details.

"Amazing and brilliant"

The Milky Way
The Psychoanalytic Dreamtime: Life-Saving Tools


This booklet enfolds the reader in a simple story of the psychoanalytic dreamtime. Presented using metaphors and language associated with dreaming, this 120 page booklet is easy to understand and introduces some of the key beliefs and practices of psychoanalysis. Click here for more information.


Wisdom Won From Suffering - Psychoanalytic Insight

In this month's Psychoanalytic Insight Pamela Nathan shares thoughts on how wisdom can be won from suffering. Jilpie Lear says wisdom can be won from illness and this wisdom can be practical.

Analytic psychotherapy seeks to understand the meaning/s of things, feelings and actions and in this endeavour restore the humanity in a person.

Read more

You can start working with us to change minds and save lives now!

Donations make possible:

  • A vehicle, and its running costs, for the Men's Tjilirra Movement.
  • Employment of Elders to work as cultural and tjilirra supervisors.
  • Purchasing tools for the project.

To make a donation, please contact us: phone 0450 540 366 or email enquiries@cassse.org.au.

CASSE Australia Inc (ABN: 17811 536 315) is registered in Australia as a Deductible Gift Recipient. All donations over $2 made to CASSE Australia are tax deductible and go directly towards supporting our programs.

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