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29 JULY 2016

Pamela Nathan, a forensic psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and the Director of CASSE's Aboriginal Australian Relations Program, has called on governments and correctional services to seek and adopt programs that regain humanity instead of torture in order to address the crisis of Indigenous incarceration.

Her statements come in response to the ABC’s Four Corners program 'Australia's Shame' that aired on the 25th of July with images and interviews that rocked Australia and have sparked a Royal Commission.

"Urgent and immediate action needs to be implemented," said Ms Nathan. "Rehabilitation and justice needs to replace control, force and punishment breeding terror and compliance."

Ms Nathan has identified ways to work with children who are deeply troubled and ending up in the juvenile justice system.

"We need to find their humanity and, in doing so, we will also find our nation’s humanity," she urged.

According to Ms Nathan, culturally empowering programs that connect lost, angry and terrified youth to Elders, country, culture, ceremony, law and meaning are a priority.

"CASSE's Men's Tjilirra Movement (MTM)* is a community endorsed movement and intervention working in with the youth services west of Alice Springs," she said.

"The MTM has changed minds and saved lives."

On average, the MTM works with over thirty participants a week, making traditional tools, holding conversations about the problem life, living in two worlds, reclaiming connections between the generations and their cultural worlds, and having the tools to “wake up strong”.

"They say they feel “strong and proud” when they are making their tools," said Ms Nathan.

Yet the Men’s Tjilirra Movement does not receive any government funding.

CASSE is also running a psychoanalytically informed group program, ‘Breakthrough Violence’, in collaboration with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), working with violent offenders to help them understand their violence and change through mentalisation.

This program is attended by up to 25 participants on a weekly basis.

"Programs such as this could run in the prisons as well as in the community," explained Ms Nathan. "There are also ways to work with Indigenous women, girls and families."

However Ms Nathan warns that there are no 'quick fixes'. 

"Australia’s Aboriginal people – custodians of the world’s longest continuing culture – have been brutalised physically and emotionally for over 200 years."

"It's time for all of us to stand alongside our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, recognise the damage that has been done and help heal their wounds."

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*Feature story about the Men's Tjilirra Movement available for publication

MEDIA CONTACT to arrange interviews: Elizabeth Lindner, Email: elizabeth.lindner@casse.org.au  Phone: 0407 725 242

Pamela Nathan is a forensic and clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist and is the Director of CASSE’s Aboriginal Australian Relations Program, working on violence and trauma with Aboriginal organisations, communities and people in central Australia.

CASSE (Creating A Safe Supportive Environment) works to create safe, supportive environments for individuals, families and communities through psychoanalytic awareness.