Edwige, V., & Gray, P. (2021). Significance of Culture to Wellbeing, Healing and Rehabilitation. Bugmy Bar Book. https://www.publicdefenders.nsw.gov.au/Documents/significance-of-culture-2021.pdf

The Bugmy Bar Book is pleased to announce the publication of Significance of Culture to Wellbeing, Healing and Rehabilitation, a report by Vanessa Edwige, registered psychologist, and Dr Paul Gray, Associate Professor, UTS Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research. Both of the authors are Directors of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA).

This report builds upon the work of the Bugmy Bar Book to date concerning establishing the link between experiences of disadvantage and contact with the criminal justice system, and citing recognised roads to rehabilitation and healing.

The authors express their expert opinions and present a significant body of evidence which establishes that, for Indigenous offenders, rehabilitation approaches which are culturally appropriate and connected to community are more effective in building both individual and community resilience, which, over time, can reduce recidivism.

The evidence cited indicates that rehabilitation programs delivered by those that understand and acknowledge the experiences of First Nations communities – in particular, Indigenous-led and -delivered initiatives, consistent with the principle of self-determination – are best suited for this purpose.

The authors discuss the importance of culturally appropriate and responsive services and programs in addressing Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing, and allowing individuals to build core capabilities within a culturally safe environment, including learning to recognise destructive behaviours, building coping skills, and forming supportive and pro-social relationships, all of which are protective factors against re-offending.

The Bugmy Bar Book hopes that this evidence-based research, and the expert opinions of the authors, will assist legal practitioners in preparing cases, and judicial officers in understanding the barriers to rehabilitation that an offender may have faced in the past, as well as an offender’s capacity for rehabilitation in the future.

The report attests to the importance of sentencing orders which enhance an offender’s prospects of rehabilitation by providing for engagement with culturally appropriate services and programs, and enable Indigenous communities to play a role in the healing process wherever possible. The report will be relevant in assisting the framing of sentencing orders, including the finding of special circumstances and the crafting of conditions attached to community-based orders.