Richard McCarthy at Helem Yumba.
Richard McCarthy at Helem Yumba. Allan Reinikka

Yarning circle gets men on the healing path

DOMESTIC violence is an issue that touches many in the Central Queensland community, but a local program is trying to break the cycle by getting communication flowing.

The Helem Yumba Central Queensland Healing Centre is a Rockhampton based indigenous counselling service for members of our community affected by domestic and family violence.

The centre offers the The Gatharr Weyebe Banabe program, which means 'Aboriginal man's life change' in the Darumbal language and is broken down into three phases.

Men's Business counsellor at the centre Richard McCarthy said the process of helping men who commit domestic violence begins with breaking down communication barriers.

"We get men come along for individual counselling and we also hold yarning circles,” Richard said.

"It's a good way to get men talking in a circle with other men.

After the men have been assessed and are ready to take the next step, an intense camping trip helps them to workshop their feelings and behaviours.

"When we think they're ready to take the next step they go on a two-day camp,” Richard said.

"We run the men through different exercises to help them face up to and take ownership of the violence they use in relationships and look at ways of stopping that.

"It's a very intense two days, it's very confronting for the men.”

Violence in the home is often a product of growing up around violence which Richard said makes it harder to break the cycle.

"Quite a lot of the time with both our male and female clients there's a history of violence in the family, of normalisation,” Richard said.

"Getting people to change their behaviour is not something that is easy to do.”

The third phase sees the men embark on a healing pathway where they are free to come back into the centre at any time to talk or participate in yarn circles.

"That is an essential part of the process that we go through,” Richard said.

"It's about giving them that opportunity to adjust their lives.

"It's all about a new way of living your life.

"We don't close the book on them.”

Richard said initial apprehension is a normal part of the counselling process, but by opening up the channels of communication the men begin to realise they can change.

"There's always resistance at the start because you're asking people to change their point of view of things,” Richard said.

"No matter where you come from there's always a bit of resistance to change when you first propose it.

"We encourage them to talk about their lives, it's one of those ways to help them to understand that it's alright to change.”

While the job presents a unique set of challenges Richard said helping people change makes it all worth it.

"It's a great job seeing the results,” he said.

"I'm happy to see at the end of my career that if I've helped one person I'll be happy.”

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