The Charter in South Australia – from Betsan
The Dulwich Centre is both a publishing house and a centre for therapy and community narrative practice in Adelaide. I have known those at Dulwich Centre for many years and they invited me give a seminar for their staff on ethics and responsibility. My presentation was titled Ethics, Trauma and Responsibility.
The Dulwich Centre Foundation works with therapy and community practice with a DIFFERENCE! They have intentionally directed their work to responding to social and political trauma in Australia and globally. For example, in 1994, following a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and Dulwich Centre hosted a gathering of Aboriginal families who had lost a loved in custody. This gathering provided an opportunity to tell their stories and through a community narrative process, identify hope, courage and endurance for families. Another field of their work has involved work within prisons and the preventing prisoner rape project.
Through their history of therapeutic work, Dulwich Centre developed an international profile which has led to their involvement with narrative practice in response to trauma in places such as Rwanda, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Brazil, USA. In the telling of stories as communities, and in sharing their skills and knowledges (as well as grief) with other communities, experiences of trauma can become transformed. The narratives are sometimes worked into texts, songs, DVDs and published through Dulwich Centre’s international journal and through books – a similar publishing house to that of the FPH.
With this work in mind the seminar was shaped to share some of the relational qualities that are characteristic of an ethics of responsibility – such as hospitality, generosity and the capacity to respect ‘difference’. An Australian Lebanese participant presented a challenging situation she is working with for us to discuss – which required respect for Muslim values and a young immigrant woman’s challenges to settling in Australia. One thing we identified was the amazing courage of a skilled therapist engaging with the responsibilities of this profoundly demanding work. During the seminar we reflected on the Charter as a resource for narrative practice, and particularly saw links in ethics and collective responsibility.
The visit included amazing walks in a national park through gum trees and yakka trees thousands of years old, and talk that brought to my attention that Australia is the driest inhabited country in the world. Our talk included further plans for collaboration on responsibility for the Pacific Assembly in 2010 and possibility for ‘Let’s Take Care…’ One person who joined us is a lawyer working throughout Asia-Pacific and he identified the need for global governance to address political and ethical responsibility in international life – so we have a ready-made partner there!
This was an inspiring exchange where ‘responsibility’ was readily appreciated as an ethic to be embedded in narrative practice and as a basis for further activities between Australia and New Zealand.