DON*T STOP THE MUSIC. - Spiritual Care Australia

• ABORIGINAL SPIRITUALITY AND HEALING:What Aboriginal People have shown me in the
last 30 years.
• David Crawford.
• Chaplain Royal Darwin Hospital
• Pastor. Northern Synod of Uniting Church
• VICTORIA –: Presbyterian farming family – studied
horticulture – worked in wine industry.
• Conversion –: Theological training, studied linguistics with SIL.
• NORTHERN TERRITORY – Missionary Linguist 20+ years
- 10 years in NW. SA. with Pitjantjatjara people.
- 10 years Darwin. Trained Aboriginal Translators from 6
language groups across Top End.
- 4 years PCA in Aged Care.
- 6.5 years as Chaplain, Royal Darwin Hospital
Languages map 200+ spoken in 1777.
We lived at Katjikatjitjarra for 1 year.
Rupert’s wife’s grave.
Checking 1 Timothy at NYIKUKURA.
Cameron’s Baptism - Ernabella
• Have strong links to their Dreaming.
• Can remember when white men first came to
their land.
• They grieve over the bad things that have
• They are treated as refugees in their own land.
• Think English is very a foreign language.
• They think white people are incomprehensible.
Boat people pict.
Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra on right. Asked the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in
Canberra why he didn’t consult with 1st Nations people when setting policy.
Features of the Aboriginal world.
It is an oral culture.
It is spiritually based.
It is relationship/kinship based
Silence is an important communication strategy.
People learn by observing, thinking and reflecting
on what they see.
• They hate lots of questions.
• They will communicate when they are ready.
Major aspects of spirituality.
• Dreaming.
– The Universe
• The invisible realm
• The visible realm – creation.
- Land/Place
- Kinship/Family
- Language
Music, song and dance, artwork are used to
cement ones’ place in this network.
• Sometimes described as magic, myth and miracles by
white people.
• People are sensitive to presence of spiritually positive or
negative forces in a person or place. - examples from
elders, & old missionaries.
• They are mystified that we whites cannot perceive these
• They have direct communication with the created realm
so that animals, plants and birds, the weather and the
stars can tell them important things.
• They learn by observing, listening, sitting in silence and
feeling the spirit around them. Silence is golden.
MORE FEATURES • They are aware of different kinds of spirit beings in their
land – some are good, some are dangerous. These are
everywhere. They see them sometimes.
• They believe that malevolent people can perform
sorcery to harm or kill people.
• They believe that some people have the special ability to
counteract sorcery.
• They readily believe in miracles. Most of what Jesus did
can be done by their clever elders – astral travel,
clairvoyance, supernatural knowledge and movement,
‘miracle’ healing, control the weather – calm storms,
create rain.
• Aboriginal medicine contains innumerable folk
remedies- ‘bush medicine’ from local plants/insects.
• Traditional approaches to healing are holistic and
consider mind, body and spirit. Medicine alone is not
• The healing relationship is based on a series of
virtues: respect; humility; compassion; honesty;
truth; sharing; hospitality and divine love.
• Several routes to healing – Talking, crying, singing,
smoking, bathing, dancing, sweating, yawning,
Definitions for Aboriginal Healing – National
Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation
• Health does not mean the physical well-being of the
individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community.
• Forgiveness and acceptance is sometimes cited as an
important component of healing by Aboriginal people.
• Being “healed” means living in peace, living in acceptance and
not judging anyone.
• Healing is the central theme of Navajo religion while sacred is
the central theme of Navajo healing. I believe this is true for
Aboriginal culture too. Even in Australia the links between
Aboriginal spirituality and healing are overlooked surprisingly
often by medical researchers.
- Emma Williams, Marburra Consulting 2012.
• The answer to improving the health of indigenous
people may lie less in increasing their access to
modern health services and more in their
rediscovering cultural values and ways. (Smith 2003)
• Healing Places. Are culturally comfortable and
safe places where a person is surrounded by
their own language and family to receive care
and healing in a relaxed and caring manner.
• Healers. Traditional healers probe deeply
into the patients social and psychological
well being, in addition to the history of
the present illness. They already know,
about the context of the patients life,
such as his or her economic status,
attitudes, beliefs hopes and fears.
NGANGKARIS. Traditional Healers
• Books: Ngangkari Work – Anangu way – traditional
healers of Central Australia. 2003.
• Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari
• These men and women have spiritual powers. Often
they are chosen and trained from a young age.
• ‘Flying spirits, sacred tools, treatment by
touch/massage .. The traditional healers of Central
Australia explain their extraordinary skills’
These Pitjantjatjara men are church elders,
ceremonial leaders and ngankaris too.
When we lived with them this was secret traditional
knowledge they did not share with others.
MARRNGITJ: Traditional Healers
• Book: Traditional Healers of Arnhem Land.
Dr John Cawte. UNSW Press 1999.
He reflects on working as visiting doctor to
Arnhem Land 1970-1990. The traditional healers
there asked him to write book about their
practices. It seems a similar system to ngankaris
of Central Australia, as like them they have only
decided to reveal this in the last decade.
This Year March 2014.
• Cleansing ceremony for previous ASH ED
• A cleansing ceremony was held at the Alice Springs Hospital
this week to clear the previous Emergency Department of
old spirits. Ngangkari men Clem Dalby and Toby Ginger
addressed the gathered crowd of more than 100 to explain
the cleansing process and where the spirits may have now
moved to. “They are no longer in the building” said Clem,
“they are in the trees and the spinifex and inside the bark
of the trees where they are happy”. The old ED will move
into the future with a clean bill of health as it is prepared
for its new life as administration space.
• Photo: Ngangkari men Clem Dalby and Toby Ginger show
staff through the cleansed former ED unit.
Aboriginal Art Online - /Culture/Medicine
• Aboriginal People were traditionally much
healthier than they are today. Living in the open
in a land largely free from disease, they
benefitted from a better diet, more exercise, less
stress, a more supportive society and a more
harmonious world view.
• Healing Places. Are culturally comfortable and
safe places where a person is surrounded by
their own language and family to receive care and
healing in a relaxed and caring manner.
A Culturally appropriate healing place?
RDH Catchment Area.
Coincides with Strong Indigenous Language Regions
In NT indigenous people make up just 30% of the total
• RDH has 350 beds with 110%+ occupancy on any day.
• 60-65% percent of patients are indigenous people from
remote parts of the NT, to whom English is a foreign
• Renal failure, rheumatic heart disease and illness/death
from drug and alcohol abuse are frequently found among
• 80% of renal patients are indigenous.
• Many people are very afraid to go to hospital for fear. So
many family die there. The spirits of deceased are there.
• The invasive surgery done by our doctors is similar to what sorcerers do to
kill people.
• Most Aboriginal families live on welfare payments, and share homes with
10-20 people – several generations living together.
High birth rates – 50% of the populations of many communities are below
20 years old.
• Some communities have an 80% unemployment rate.
• The cost of living in remote communities is very high.
• Cost of travel to remote communities is very high.
• 80-90% of the NT prison population are indigenous.
Boat people pict.
ABORIGINAL CHRISTIANS. Rev Peter on right went to RDH for
heart when 8o years old. He amazed doctors with his brilliance, and
staff and patients from other cultures saw him as a holy man.
Aboriginal Christians
• Indigenous Christians I deal with regularly practise - simultaneous
prayer, speaking in tongues, singing in tongues. Daily prayer sessions
for family members in trouble. Regular scripture reading and
preaching. God speaks to them through dreams and visions.
• Regardless of denomination they regularly use religious aids They
acknowledge Christian sacred/healing sites around Territory where
God has manifested to people. They have own traditional healing sites
and there is a network across all faiths as people seek many different
sources for healing.
• They play Christian music on mobile phones often. They make their
own Christian music and songs and dances all the time. They sing and
dance their faith, as they do their own cultural beliefs.
Aboriginal Christians.
• They are constantly seeking manifestations of
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
• Many communities and homelands are
dedicated to Christ and people have regular
Christian rallies there to build up the church,
and dedicated themselves to Christ.
• There are frequent rumours of mass baptisms
and ‘turning to the Lord’ at many isolated
places in the last couple of years.
• What is my connection to all this as Chaplain?
• Indigenous people say about me. ‘David is
someone who knows about us. He is part of our
• We call on him as both a relative and a pastor.
He’s a spiritual resource.
• He knows the hospital rules, and the doctors. He
can talk to them and help us understand what is
happening, at the same time he is a Christian
man who can pray with us. We know and trust
What I Do In Hospital
• Pastoral support.-prayer, anointing, singing, providing
religious aids.
• Facilitate communication. I use language [simple English]
they understand. Much communication is
• Interpret for Pitjantjatjara patients.
• Assist staff with cultural confusion.
• Link patients to outside family, I have telephone numbers
for many family leaders in different communities.
• Look out for people I know.
I network with patients
• Make new kinship links daily.
• Show them some photos from past.
• Old links provide for swift connection and
cooperation from indigenous people. They
tell me things they won’t tell medical staff.
• They treat my like one of their respected
• Some claim I have ‘the gift’ of healing and
their family members ask for me by name.
• My studies and experience has shown that
Aboriginal people see the Chaplain as having
equal or more importance in the healing
process than medical staff.
• Our spiritual focus, godly character and
compassion parallels that of their traditional
healers. So they readily accept our input as
vital to their healing.
• What are the ongoing implications of this?
• How do we know we have communicated to
them successfully?
• How do we know they trust us?
• How can we provide concrete data about this
to satisfy the medical system?
• What about employing Aboriginal Chaplains?

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