An early intervention parenting program for Aboriginal Australians is currently in the works, with hopes to help Indigenous families overcome trauma.

Michelle Kenny from the University of New South Wales was awarded a Funding Partner PhD Scholarship from Australian Rotary Health and the Rotary Club of Sydney in 2018, to investigate the effectiveness of a trauma informed parenting intervention for Indigenous parents.

“Aboriginal Australians are still recovering from the effects of colonisation, stolen generations, racism and social inequity,” Michelle said.

“Research suggests that the mental health of Indigenous people impacts on their parenting style and attachment. In this way trauma can compound across generations.”

Having worked in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, Michelle is very passionate about assisting Aboriginal families to heal from the impact of their traumatic past.

“Early intervention is vital to start to redress the negative impact of complex trauma on the functioning of Aboriginal families,” Michelle said.

“I believe that the development and implementation of a trauma informed parenting program specifically for Aboriginal families, has great potential to create improvements in parents’ mental health.”

In 2019, Michelle and her research team plan to develop a parenting program with 12 group therapy sessions, which teach parents about attachment needs and emotional cues in children.

“Each week of the program will comprise a different topic relating to trauma, attachment and parenting, along with a cultural component such as an Elder or an activity.”

“It is intended that participants will gain useful knowledge about their own and their children’s emotions which will improve the parent-child bond and the quality of their relationship.”

Michelle is looking forward to getting deeper into her research this year, with plans to hold focus group interviews with Indigenous parents and professionals to inform the new program.

Once developed, approximately 50 participants will be randomly allocated to receive either the parenting program or attendance at an equivalent number of group sessions as the control condition.

“It is hoped that the parenting program will improve the self-reported mental health symptoms and parenting experience of urban NSW Indigenous Australians.”

Outcomes will be measured before and after the intervention, to assess if there is any change to variables such as mental health, parenting confidence, parental reflectiveness, quality of parent-child interactions, cultural identity and trauma symptoms.

“I feel sure that together we are going to create a meaningful program from the ground up. It will be very exciting when we run the pilot of the parenting program.”

“I have really valued the opportunity provided to me by Australian Rotary Health and the Rotary Club of Sydney to focus on what I am most passionate about – helping Indigenous families to overcome trauma.”

We wish Michelle all the best with her research this year.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or