NAIDOC Week 2023 – Dr Judy Atkinson

dr judy atkinson

The Buttery’s Reconciliation Action Plan Committee (RAP Committee) submitted Dr Judy Atkinson for the 2023 Lifetime Achievement NAIDOC Award. While Dr Atkinson didn’t win this award, we want to provide an insight into her incredible life’s work this NAIDOC Week.

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is the founder of We Al-li. She is a Jiman (central West Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage.

We Al-li’s innovative community workshops are an Indigenous therapeutic response to individual, family and community pain that many people carry as part of their life experience.

We Ali-Li (We – fire / Al-li – water) provides tailored workshops that are trauma-informed in design and delivery. The workshops are built on integrating Indigenous cultural processes of education, conflict management and personal/social healing with Eastern and Western therapeutic skills for trauma recovery.

In 2006, Dr Atkinson was awarded the Carrick Neville Bonner Award for academic contributions to trauma-related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation. In 2011, she was awarded the Fritz Redlick Memorial Award for Human Rights and Mental Health from Harvard University for refugee trauma. In 2019, Dr Atkinson received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to the Indigenous community, education and mental health.

Her book, Trauma Trails – Recreating Songlines: ‘The transgenerational effects of trauma in Indigenous Australia’, provides context to the life stories of people who have been moved from their country in a process that has created trauma trails, and the changes that can occur in the lives of people as they make a connection with each other and share their stories of healing.

Dr Atkinson says, “We cannot do healing work for an individual. The individual must be connected to Country because Country holds stories as well. The individual also has to be connected to family when the family is in pain and the community. It’s a communal healing that we focus on, not individual work but the individual work does happen when we’re in community working together.”



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