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Media release on World Congress for Psychotherapy

Major International Award for Indigenous Mental Health Professionals

A major international award for contributions to the field of psychotherapy will be presented to a group of outstanding Australian Indigenous mental health professionals at the 6th World Congress for Psychotherapy, “World Dreaming”, to be held in Sydney from 24-28 August.

The World Council for Psychotherapy‟s Sigmund Freud Award recognises the life work of individuals and groups that have made original contributions to the field of psychotherapy. The conjoint Award recipients are: Winthrop Professor Helen Milroy; Kamilaroi Elder, Aunty Lorraine Peeters; and the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjtara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPY Project) represented by traditional healers (Ngankari) Mr Rupert Peters and Mr Ginger Toby.

“Together these distinguished award winners represent a spectrum of Indigenous contributions across the country from the most ancient traditional forms of applied psycho-somatic therapy (Ngankari traditional Indigenous healers), to the engagements with Indigenous trauma and healing relating to the „Stolen Generations‟ and consequences of colonisation (Aunty Lorraine Peeters, Counsellor and Trainer), to western psycho-medical practice undertaken in a culturally appropriate approach (Professor Helen Milroy, Psychiatrist),” said Dr Anthony Korner, Chair of the Organising Committee of the World Congress for Psychotherapy.

“As a group these therapists demonstrate a broad range of contributions to psychological healing within Australia,” said Dr Korner.

Professor Helen Milroy is the first Indigenous Psychiatrist in Australia and recipient of numerous Australian awards including the Limelight Award for National Leadership in Indigenous medical education (2009) and the Suicide Prevention Australia Award, Indigenous Category (2008).

Aunty Lorraine Peeters, former NSW Senior Australian of the Year (2006), has developed the Marumali Healing Program for Indigenous people suffering the effects of trauma, specifically in relation to the Stolen Generation. Lorraine Peeters‟ healing work is described in the newly released, highly commended book, Working Together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice.

The Ngankari, Mr Ginger Toby and Mr Rupert Peters, work in association with numerous groups including the Central Australian Northern Territory Government Mental Health Team and the Indigenous NPY Women‟s Council. They travel nationally to undertake practice and share their work. Their work demonstrates the relevance of traditional approaches in modern Indigenous contexts and complements approaches undertaken in mainstream healthcare.

“The award winners retain and sustain Indigenous perspectives and commitments in contemporary Australia. They work in association with each other within Indigenous networks. Furthermore all three are nationally and internationally renowned for their work, which challenges and amplifies the understanding and practice of psychotherapy in an Australian context,” said Dr Korner.

“Taken as a whole these conjoint prize winners have made significant contributions to the process of psychic healing in the Australian community, to the processes of „closing the gap‟ and reconciliation, to the overcoming of alienation and to the awakening of the sense of inclusiveness and belonging for all Indigenous Australians as well as confronting and modifying many of the unhelpful practices in the broader Australian community. The conjoint nature of the award is also in keeping with Indigenous values of shared recognition and interconnection,” said Dr Korner.

“This may be the first occasion in which exceptional work by Indigenous Australian mental health therapists has achieved such international recognition for their contribution to a major field in the health sciences. All Australians should feel proud of their achievement,” said Dr Korner.

The award presentation will take place on Friday 26 August at the 6th World Congress for Psychotherapy. The event will feature internationally renowned psychotherapists, representing different fields of psychotherapy, counselling, and related disciplines.

Further details about the Congress are available at the website at: www.wcp2011.org.

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