Gamarada Community Healing and Cultural Leadership Program
The Gamarada Indigenous Healing and Cultural Leadership program is a part of the Gamarada Universal Indigenous Resources (GUIR), suite of programs and services. GUIR is a 100% owned and operated Indigenous business founded by Ken Zulumovski Hon DHSc in 2011. This business is unique in Australia; its autonomy allows for creativity in the development of First Nations led services and program. The Gamarada Indigenous Healing and Cultural Leadership program is owned by its members whose volunteer efforts support the culturally integrative program model to build a shared sense of responsibility, and commitment to healing and growth.
“Healing is a spiritual process that includes therapeutic change and cultural renewal.”– Aboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderSocial Justice Commissioner’s Social Justice Report, 2008
The Indigenous Healing and Cultural Leadership program was developed in response to the community’s need to have culturally sensitive healing and life skills programs, and is delivered free to the community. On the surface, it utilises a trauma-informed approach in a culturally safe framework to provide holistic healing and to teach cultural leadership principles; in reality it offers much more than simply healing and leadership techniques. In this program, Western psychology and the Indigenous wisdom tradition intertwine to “guide youth and adults in the community to confront anger, addictions and loss of culture in a structured and safe environment” (Taylor, Carroll & Gamarada, 2012). Healing is treated as an all-embracing spiritual experience, and the process of unpacking cultural baggage as well as unlearning what is no longer useful allows the participants to build an awareness of all aspects of themselves.
The program values the role of lived experience in its delivery, especially in terms of utilising the volunteers’ own history and experiences to enrich participants on their journey of healing; these volunteers are a significant aspect of the program because they were once participants themselves. Another key element of the program is the “Train the Trainer” component, where participants are given the opportunity to be trained in delivering the program drawing from the Gamarada Universal Indigenous Resources COURAGE (Culture, Optimism, Understanding, Relationships, Acceptance, Gratitude, Encouragement) coaching model, which teaches them the skills to lead sessions in the community. What they bring to the program is invaluable as they are, in Mr Zulumovksi’s words, the “heart and soul of the organisation, hold responsibility of program sustainability and ensure that the program is embedded in community as opposed to being delivered to community”.
In 2010, this program was recognised by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet with an Excellence Award for Building Leadership in Indigenous Communities, and was the winner of the 2019 ZEST Award for Outstanding Voluntary Group/Organisation. It is the longest running program of its kind in Australia, with sessions being delivered in Redfern, Liverpool and Mount Druitt. All of these achievements as well as the direct results of the program is what sets it apart from others, and allows it to complement and work in with existing services. It addresses a real need in the community by working with community to deliver it. In June the program will celebrate a milestone of 760 weeks of continual autonomous delivery.
Evidence in practice
When trauma informed approaches are applied in a culturally safe framework, such as the interweaving of Western psychology and the Indigenous wisdom tradition, the resulting approach includes yarning circles, individual counselling, men’s and women’s groups, community healing groups, traditional healing methods, and more (Ronin Films, 2019).
Harnessing the role of lived experience in service delivery can be advantageous when delivering a program. As a form of peer support, it utilises a person’s own knowledge and experience to assist in the recovery of another person facing the same or similar issue, and can increase the overall effectiveness of the service (Bradstreet, 2006).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. (2008) Social Justice Report. Available from
Bradstreet, S. (2006). Harnessing the “lived experience”:formalising peer support approaches to promote recovery. Mental Health Review Journal, 11(2), 33-37. doi:10.1108/13619322200600019
Ronin Films. (2019). Gamarada A Spiritual Awakening [press kit]. Available from https://www.roninfilms.com.au/feature/9426/gamarada.html
Taylor, M., Carroll, M. & Gamarada. (2012). Gamarada A Spiritual Awakening. Available from https://www.indigitube.com.au/video/5c59270a86e1a14c0472b05e