“We don’t often get to talk about the hard times.”
— Didgeri participant
Didgeri Men’s Group: Valuing care, culture and community
Didgeri is not a group focused specifically on helping men who have been sexually abused in childhood. It is a group, however, who on becoming aware of this most difficult and challenging of issues, chose to reach out and offer encouragement and support to those who have been silenced by sexual abuse and left to carry shame that is not theirs to carry, to produce the ‘No More Silence: It’s Never Too Late to Start Healing’ video.
The ‘Support: Contributions to Healing’ video highlights the value of creating a space where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men can come together to connect with each other and practice culture: To create a space where men offer encouragement and support to each other and discuss challenges they are facing as community members. The video acknowledges the important role friends, family and community members can play in providing support and healing to men and women who have been sexually abused in childhood.
The ‘Support: Contributions to Healing’ video recognises that whilst there is developing professional awareness, knowledge and skill, many men have difficulty accessing formal services. In addition, whilst men who have been sexually abused appreciate the support of loved ones and fellow community members, they are often reluctant to speak about sexual abuse, out of concern they will burden someone or receive a negative and unhelpful response.
The ‘Support: Contributions to Healing’ video provides suggestions about how you might respond to a man who has been sexually abused in childhood and in the process look after yourself:
How you can help
- Listen to him – sometimes it is all the person wants. Try to resist asking for more information or details than is offered (check your own curiosity here).
- Believe him – be aware that any questions about ‘what happened’ or ‘why he has not said anything before,’ has the potential to be read a criticism or doubt.
- Respect his trust in you.
- Ask him how you can best support him – ‘How can I be supportive and helpful?”
- Try not to take over and problem solve… or try to fix him. It is useful to become informed about what services and support is available for him (or you), without imposing this upon me.
- Understand the pressures and difficulties he can face as a man.
- Remember it is his story to tell – check in with him who, if anyone, it is ok to share information with. Be aware that if you are concerned that a child or someone is at risk of harm, you may have to act to ensure safety.
- Model Self Care – seek support for yourself if you become over whelmed or you are struggling with distressing feelings and thoughts.
Read the article Men’s disclosure: How you can help for more information.
As told by Anthony Newcastle
Didgeri is a place to learn the didgeridoo and an opportunity to connect with our culture and identity. It is a culturally safe place where men come together to talk and share stories.
This process of gathering together to talk and learn the didgeridoo is not a new thing for us as Aboriginal people. This is a continuation of culture and tradition that starts with welcome or acknowledgement of country.
There are a number of stories about Didgeridoo. One is that there is a person called Yiddiki and he was the person who had the didgeridoo. Yiddiki was walking through the bush one day and came across a log. The wind was blowing over the log, making this noise. Yiddiki, he wanted to know what that noise was, so he went and found that log, cut it all back and become the first didgeridoo player; learnt how to make that noise.
There is another story that tells the story of the Didgeridoo being the place where the Rainbow Serpent, where it holds the voice of the Rainbow Serpent. Another story is of the Clever Man. The Clever Man, in Aboriginal culture, put all his stories in the Didgeridoo, his voice, as a safe keeping place. The Didgeri Group is continuing this tradition of creating a safe place to give voice.
On any of the fortnightly gatherings, there can be between nine and nineteen men at Didgeri. All of those who attend have, at some stage, described the activity as “a good experience to be part of.” There is no expectation for participants to attend each and every time, yet many do.
The Didgeri group has become a place where the men offer each other comradeship that includes some straight talking. It is a sad truth that a couple of the men, who have been attending Didgeri for over eighteenth months, have made only marginal improvement in their didgeridoo playing (These men wear this ‘marginal improvement’ as a badge of honour).
Through our collective journey, a ‘yarning’ place has been created, that supports discussion of life’s successes and challenges, our personal and collective learning and philosophy. Didgeri has become a culturally safe place to talk about difficulties and challenges that are rarely part of everyday conversations.
The commitment of the Didgeri group members — to meeting responsibilities in making a positive contribution to community — is what led us to lend our voices to the ‘No More Silence: Its never too late to start healing’ video. In the process, this opened up further conversations, and added to our awareness the value of investing in and building community members’ capacity to respond to someone who has been sexually abused, with understanding, care and compassion.
Responding with care
Two weeks after participating in the making of the ‘No More Silence’ video, about eight or nine of us were having lunch together at our Didgeri gatherings, when I heard:
|James say:||‘I feel for the fellas that this abuse had happened to, because as a kid I was touched and fondled by a bloke down the street, when I was about 10 years old.’|
This is not a something I had heard James mention in the group before. I was just thinking about how I might respond, when I heard:
|One of the men say:||‘Brother, I’m real sorry to hear that. Are you ok, Brother?’|
|James replied:||‘Yeah, I’m okay. Just wanted to say I know what it’s like for them fellas, even though what happened to me was a long time ago and not as bad as some fellas.’|
The men around the table remained calm, some pausing for a moment to acknowledge James, whilst continuing to serve food and pour drinks. One of the men said to James ‘Here, Brother, pass me your cup, I’ll pour you a drink [of cordial].’
As I watched, I was surprised that no-one did what I have experienced with men previously. No-one tried to change the subject or focus the conversation on wanting to find and kill the person who assaulted James. No-one moved away or gave James an unasked for pat on the back. Instead, there was an enquiry focused on care and support for James.
|One of the men asked:||‘Brother, was there anyone there to support you when it happened?’|
|Another added:||‘Yeah, Brother, you were only a little kid.’|
James said that yes, his mother and a male neighbour supported him and that they had it out with that fella straight away.
|One of the men asked:||‘So how did that happen and how did they [mother and the neighbour] know?’|
|James:||‘Yeah, they knew because, as soon as it happened, I told ‘em. I said he called me into his house and this is what he done to me, and they seen if I was okay, then went straight up there.’|
|Another man said:||‘Must have been good to have your mum stand up for you like that, hey Brother?’|
|James:||‘Yeah, we had a special bond, me and my mum.’|
|Group member said:||‘Go Mum! How good’s your mum?’|
|Another of the men:||‘And how’s the neighbour? I’m liking the neighbour.’|
|James:||‘Yeah, they were both there for me. Yeah, I was only a little kid, but I still remember how they just stood up for me.’|
The conversation wasn’t a quick snappy back and forth affair. It was a conversation between men that centred on care and support. I noticed that Gordon (the worker from the Royal Commission who invited James to Didgeri) was also listening, standing back from the table. I made my way around to him to quietly acknowledge what we had witnessed.
|Anthony:||‘Wow, that was encouraging.’|
|Gordon:||‘Yeah, they handled that real well, hey?’|
Gordon and I talked about how the men had provided beautiful support to their friend. The kind of support you would hope people who disclose abuse will receive from those around them.
Anthony Newcastle – Natjul Performing Arts
Further information and support
If you are a man who has been sexually abused, or someone who cares about him, and you want more information and support. Check out the many support articles we have on the website:
- How you can support a man if he discloses sexual abuse
- Get information about male sexual abuse
- Managing common difficulties
- Contact us for direct support and counselling
As well as the Living Well resources you can find more information and support by contacting the below services.
A national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns.
Phone 1300 78 99 78 (available 24/7)
Online counselling: https://mensline.org.au/want-to-talk/
Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline
Lists a range of support services across QLD.
Phone: 1800 010 120
24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone in Australia who has experienced or been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Staffed by trauma specialist counsellors.
Phone: 1800 737 732
Online Counselling: 1800respect.org.au/telephone-and-online-counselling
24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention.
Phone: 131 114
Link Up (QLD) Aboriginal Corporation
Provides counselling, healing and culturally appropriate support for indigenous Australians.
Phone: 1800 200 855
The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation with a focus on building culturally strong, community led healing solutions.
Phone: 02 6272 7500
Micah Projects Inc / Lotus Place (Find and Connect QLD)
Support and resource service for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants.
Phone: 1800 161 109
Email: [email protected]
Relationships Australia QLD
Family, children and relationship counselling. Relationship Australia are committed to offering the best possible counselling, mediation, education and support services in a professional, relaxed and confidential environment.
Phone: 07 3423 6890
Phone: 1800 552 127
Specialist case management, counselling and telephone counselling for child and adult survivors, non-offending family members and friends. Services include counselling, support engaging with the Royal Commission, preparation of written statements, attending private sessions and public hearings.
Phone: 1800 272 831 (8am – 8pm AEST/AEDT, weekdays)
Email: [email protected]
Blue Knot Foundation
(Formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse – ASCA). National professional phone counselling, information and support for adult survivors of child abuse with referral database of experienced professionals and agencies. Provides workshops for survivors, family members, partners and friends. Professional development for health professionals is also available.
Phone: 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST/AEDT 7 days)
Email: [email protected]
Murrigunyah Family & Cultural Healing Centre is a community based sexual assault support service run by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women of Logan City.
Phone: (07) 3290 4254
Email: [email protected]
BeyondBlue has programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and general information on mental health, including how to recognise depression and where to get help. Phone 1300 22 4636
Lifeline’s Mental Health Resource Centre offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People specific resources. Download PDF files on:
Your local hospital or doctor may be able to help you with counselling and support.
Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal Australia allows you to search a map to find Indigenous-specific mental health services across Australia.
Have a yarn
Have a yarn with:
Other mental health support services to talk about your feelings and get help.
Indigenous family support and healing groups and others in your mob to try to help reduce the stress of raising children.
Community health services
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS)
Call the ATSICHS Healing Centre on (07) 3240 8907 to access culturally appropriate counselling services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Brisbane affected by mental illness.
Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS)
The TAIHS Social and Mental Health Unit offers mental health counsellors and run regular men’s and women’s groups to help cope with:
- Mental illness.
- Family business.
- Prison and court matters.
Phone TAIHS on (07) 4759 4022 to book a counselling session or join a group.
Palm Island Mental Health Service
At the Palm Island Mental Health Service Indigenous health workers support people with mental health issues in the local community.
Other remote support
Mental health support and counselling services are also available in these remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:
- Gregory Downs
- Mornington Island
- Thursday Island
For more information phone the Vincent Campus – Cambridge Street Facility on (07) 4775 8100.