Celebrating 20 Years!

    20 Years on

Marumali is a Gamilaroi word meaning ‘to put back together’. In 1999 the Marumali Journey of Healing Model was developed from the experiences and healing journey of a Stolen Generations survivor, Aunty Lorraine (Darcy) Peeters. Following on in 2000 the Marumali Program® was created, based on the Marumali Journey of Healing Model,and later endorsed as being a safe, ethical, effective and best practice healing model for Stolen Generations survivors.

A Gamilaroi and Wailwun woman, Aunty Lorraine was removed from family and community at the age of 4 years old and institutionalised in Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. From this moment on, Aunty Lorraine’s life became a turbulent journey and she spent the next 14 years of her life institutionalised, and once sufficiently trained, sent out to neighbouring stations to work as a domestic for non-Aboriginal families.

                      I was told I was there because my family did not want me and that they did not care or love me, and that all 
                  Aboriginal men, they called them 'dirty blacks', were dangerous…we were brainwashed.

In October 1994 whilst attending a Link-Up NSW reunion in Sydney for Coota Girls and ex-residents of Kinchella Boys and Bomaderry Homes, Aunty Lorraine’s healing journey began. On this day, she was triggered by the event and that catapulted her into another reality. Intense emotions, she thought she was going insane. Anger, confusion and fear exposed a great sense of loss and grief. She describes the experience as ‘being at a funeral and party at the same time’. From this day, she documented her thoughts, feelings, and experiences, for three years.  From these writings the Marumali Journey of Healing Model was created.

The Model fulfils hope held for programs to support survivors of the Stolen Generations and it:

·        Was developed by a survivor for survivors

·        Is a healing program, rather than a therapy or treatment

·        Is culturally sensitive for those who were removed a

·        Is culturally sensitive for the families and communities they were removed from

·        Respects the autonomy and strength of survivors

·        Offers a clear path forward for survivors, regardless of how they were removed or what has happened since

·        Allows survivors to set the pace, rate and direction of their healing journey

·        Is holistic and includes the spiritual dimensions of healing

·        Address the core issues which undermine survivors, and allows for personal growth

·        Addresses the transgenerational effects of removal.

In 1999, Aunty Lorraine was invited to keynote address a mental health conference in Sydney, her first ever public speaking engagement, to approximately 400 people. From the conference came a recommendation that the Model to be developed into a training package for Aboriginal counsellors. Supported by the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health as a Bringing Them Home initiative, theMarumali Program® was developed in 2000. It addresses several recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report 1997 (and the earlier 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody) and aims to support the findings and recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, as it suggests the individual, intergenerational and collective trauma be addressed through a healing process.

I didn’t know then how much impact that the program would have on my life, and still today, I look fondly
back at that time. I have been able to make connect with my natural Mother, and understand what
she went through living on Burnt Bridge Mission back in 1959.
Donna Elliott
Program Participant 2002

TheMarumali Program® is based on seven-stages of healing. The healing model offers an overview of the healing journey and how it may unfold. . Itinvolves mind, body, and spirit and is holistic in that culture, identity, and reconnecting with family, community, and country are central to healing process. It offers clear guidelines about what type of support is required at each stage and identifies core issues to be addressed during each stage. It alerts participants to some of the risks associated with each stage (including misdiagnosis issues), suggests appropriate support to minimise these risks, and offers indicators of when the individual is ready to move onto the next stage of healing.  ‘It gives people direction in life; to reclaim their connections to everything the past generation had lost. Often the spiritual and cultural aspects of the program are what’s missing from people's lives,’ Aunty Lorraine says.

The program not only draws on Aunty Lorraine’shealing wisdom that is based on her personal and ancestral knowledge and experiences, also theories of trauma to create an effective base for recovery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the nation. As a trauma aware, healing program, the Marumali Program® incorporates three key elements:

1. The realisation of the prevalence of trauma

2. The recognition of how trauma affects individuals, organisations (including their own workforce) and systems

3. Providing ways to respond and avoiding re-traumatisation by putting the knowledge into practice (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2012).

This week on the 29th May the Marumali Program® celebrates the ‘20th Year’ anniversary.  Also this week acknowledges the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report (1997), and the 20th Anniversary of the Bridge Walk in2000. The pilot Marumali Program® workshop was delivered the day following the Bridge Walk in Sydney. It was a moment of change. Many years of memories, experiences, frequent flyer miles later and an unforgettable milestone for Aunty Lorraine now in her 80’s, delivering every workshop to date.

Twenty years on, the unique, original and unparalleled healing program has been delivered to nearly 4000 participants and more than 300 workshops across the nation. Additional workshops have since been created to form a suite of programs, delivered across the country to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers, survivors, families and communities and men and women within the prison system. 

Through a recent evaluation review, it highlighted the following themes.

·      The program builds an understanding of the impact of colonisation and transgenerational trauma and grief.

·      The program builds individual, family and community capacity

·      The program is proactive rather than reactive

·      The program was developed to address issues in the local community;

The review also concluded that nearly 4000 participants nationally said that the program made a difference to them. Collectively they testify to the impact of increased understanding, awareness and knowledge of the trauma of forced removal and how such understanding, awareness and knowledge strengthens the healing process.

Aunty Lorraine’s reflection on the twenty years conjures up many memories. For many a healing journey could take a lifetime, yet for Aunty Lorraine she says ‘it was fast’. Three years of writing condensed down to a weeklong learning experiencefor participants.On the 20 year anniversary of the Marumali Program® Aunty Lorraine  is driven to keep supporting others on their journey, and sharing her wisdom and knowledge to build a better support network for our mob through delivering the training to workers and healing to survivors. In particular she has a deep passion for our young people, their healing, and their futures and she says 'I  believe that if all of our younger generations are strong in who they are, where they are from, and where they are going, we could save many lives and for others being able to guide and provide a sense of fulfilment'.


2020 marks the 18th anniversary of Aboriginal healing program in Victorian prisons

2020 marks the18th year anniversary of Aunty Lorraine Peeters’ unique Aboriginal healing program, the Marumali Program®, began being delivered to men and women in Victorian correctional centres.

The Marumali Program® first piloted at Fulham Correctional Centre in May 2002 by GEO Group Australia, and since then more than 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have benefited from the program in correctional centres across Victoria.

Marumali is a Gamilaroi word meaning 'to put back together’. The cultural program draws on Aunty Lorraine’s experiences and healing journey, following her forced removal from family at the age of four, to help other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people break the cycle of trauma and disadvantage.

Within correctional centres the program works to reduce the risk of reoffending and help people effectively reintegrate into the community by increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's understanding of their history and culture and the impact of trauma on themselves, their families and their communities. 

It creates a safe environment for people to begin the recovery process and provides them with the tools needed to manage their grief and trauma and improve their social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Aunty Lorraine believes the way the program builds resilience by strengthening connections to culture, identity, family, community and country is key to its continued success over almost two decades.

“It gives people direction in life, to reclaim their connections to everything the past generation had lost. Often the spiritual and cultural aspects of the program are what’s missing from people's lives,” Aunty Lorraine says.

"Knowing you belong to a community can be so powerful. The program gives people permission to be themselves, express and be proud of their Aboriginality - often for the first time."

Participants say the program helped them make sense of everything that had happened in their lives, with one describing it as feeling like "a huge weight” being lifted off their shoulders.

“It’s changed my life forever,” another participant said. "It’s given me a new direction in thinking about my identity and the importance of connecting to culture for my babies.”

An analysis of surveys completed by correctional centre participants across Victoria between 2017 and 2019 found that completing the workshop significantly increased participants' ability to discuss their grief and trauma, feel empowered to start or continue their healing journeys, and use strategies to make positive changes in their lives. Participants also emerged with a stronger sense of who they are, and 87 percent felt able to positively mentor others (compared to just 13 percent before taking part in the program).

"Meeting Aunty Lorraine and sister Shaan was the best thing that has ever happened to me,” one participant said. "This course has strengthened me and it will change how I see the future. My spirit is free.”