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First of its kind Healing Forum brings together Midwest’s Mullewa community

Callan Morse -

After years of planning, the Midwest community of Mullewa held its inaugural healing forum earlier this month.

The forum, known as Mullewa Healing Forum 2023: Healing Together saw nearly 190 participants attend the Aboriginal led and designed two-day event.

Participants travelled from Mullewa, Geraldton, and as far away as Perth, coming together to share healing conversations focusing on care and healing for self, family, and the community.

Mullewa woman Debra Maher said she was glad to see people of all age groups attend the forum.

"We live in the same town, and we hardly talk to each other like this," she said.

"It was especially important to see Mullewa District High School bring the young students to the Healing Forum."

Aboriginal staff from the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) of the University of Western Australia worked with Mullewa community leaders over a two-year period to co-design the forum.

Planned activities included yarning circles, healing doll making, bush medicines, weaving, art, and other cultural forms of healing on country.

They included Badimaya Yamaji dollmaker, Catherine Bynder leading a healing doll making workshops and Menang artist, Roni Kerley hosting a weaving seminar.

As part of the forum Wajarri speaker, Wendy Merry held a Wajarri Wangga (talk) with a bush medicine session facilitated by Wajarri health practitioner, Gwen Rakabula.

Badimaya Yamaji dollmaker Catherine Bynder alongside husband Michael Bynder. (Image: University of Western Australia)

Elder Leedham Papertalk (Snr) and his family also provided a connection to Yamaji culture through hunting for bush food for the bush food feasts each day.

Proud Yamaji woman and WACRH Research Fellow, Dr Charmaine Green said it was great to see the community to come together, make connections and use Yamaji cultural aspects of healing.

"We had hoped the forum would offer respite from some of the hardships our community come up against and offer a safe space to heal together," said Dr Green.

The forum saw the delivery of numerous First Nation healing practitioners' workshops, including, Josh Joseph (Centacare Geraldton), Gwen Rakabula, Sophia Clark and Ashley Cameron (Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service), Derise Jones (Julgara Maga Aboriginal Mental Health Training) and Rayleen Councillor (Barrowa Consultancy).

WACRH Director Professor, Sandra Thompson, said it is overdue that well-meaning non-Aboriginal people step back and allow and support Aboriginal people to lead initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of their own community.

"We have so much to learn from their approach and creativity. I am thrilled to see this forum, the result of much community input and hard work," Professor Thompson said.

"It demonstrates what can be accomplished with local Aboriginal leadership and I acknowledge their thoughtful invitation encouraging participation and collaboration towards healing in the Mullewa community."

During the forum, Mullewa born woman Delys Ring shared her family's powerful story of intergenerational trauma as a part of healing yarning for community members.

Perth man Michael Bynder also spoke, detailing his journey of setting up four Aboriginal Men's Sheds in Western Australia's capital and what it could mean for Aboriginal men in the Mullewa and Geraldton community on their journey of healing.

The forum closed with a performance from the Mullewa dance group Binmaga Cultural Experience.

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