More than words, the College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices is ‘reconciliation in action’


31 May 2021

Judy Atkinson, Emeritus Professor and Bundjalung and Jiman woman, first challenged the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) to take action to address the trauma of generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 2018. In response PACFA began conversations among its Board and membership which has resulted in the creation of the College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices (CATSIHP). 

In 2021 the Indigenous-led College is now a newly established stream at PACFA – alongside the Colleges of Counselling, Psychotherapy, Relationship Counselling and Educators. 

‘This is reconciliation in action’ said Professor Atkinson ‘PACFA have done something completely unique, to my knowledge, they are the only professional association who have taken on my challenge and stepped forward to support the development of a badly needed healing workforce. 

Judy Atkinson is a trailblazer in healing circles for her work identifying the impact of intergenerational trauma as outlined in Trauma Trails, Recreating Songlines: The transgenerational effects of trauma in Indigenous Australia published in 2003. 

‘Australia has experienced a deep wounding’ says Professor Atkinson ‘Indigenous people have a great need for skilled and qualified people who can support them with appropriate therapeutic techniques.’ 

‘We particularly need qualified and skilled people to work with our children and young people. This will be a key focus of our training and accreditation.’ 

‘Our experience with PACFA has been empowering – at every step they have supported us. We have had challenging conversations but there has been no push-back’ 

The College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices is a new College of PACFA with equivalent representation at Board level. The PACFA Board and membership are excited about this new step. 

‘Judy challenged us all’ said Dr Di Stow, President of PACFA ‘and we thought deeply about what she said – and asked ourselves ‘what were we actually doing?’, as highly trained counsellors and psychotherapists, skilled in dealing with diversity and complexity, about the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’

‘The answer lay in stepping up and supporting her important work by aiding the training of a skilled and credentialed workforce. We are proud to be playing a part in this important work.’ 

‘National Reconciliation Week calls on us all to think about what actions we can take to advance reconciliation. I believe PACFA members can be proud of their commitment to reconciliation and what has been achieved over the last three years. And this work will continue’ said Dr Stow 

‘With PACFA’s help we have the basis for a qualified and skilled Indigenous Healing Practitioner workforce’ says Professor Atkinson. ‘In years to come this will benefit the broader Australian community immensely’. 

The College has also appointed a Project Officer supported by the Psyche Foundation to work on compiling resources, developing web content and working with an expert leadership group on the establishment of training standards in Indigenous Healing Practices. The leadership group includes a range of professions as well as PACFA members: Dr Caroline Atkinson (Convenor), Gina O’Neil (Deputy Convenor), Dr Graham Gee, Scott Kratzmann, Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson, Dr Kate Briggs, Dr Gavin Morris, Bianca Stawiarski, Rayleen Councillor, Miranda Madgwick, Bianca Field, Richard Scott, Anne Jenkins, Danielle Dyall. 

‘PACFA has showed integrity and courage, and I am pleased to work with their members to advance reconciliation’ said Professor Atkinson. 

For more information go to To speak with the CATSIHP Project Officer, Thaedra Frangos, email [email protected] or call (0437) 783 503. 

To speak with Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson or Dr Di Stow please contact Johanna de Wever on (0487) 698 218 or [email protected]