Sharon Searle

The dance of life with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples


Edition: Dance Therapy Collections 4

Keywords: 

Indigenous culture, dance movement therapy, trauma, engagement, cultural awareness, cultural safety, Australia

Page #: 51

Dance and ritual have been essential parts of the cultural and spiritual life of Australian Indigenous peoples for more than 40,000 years, used to promote health and wellbeing and share cultural knowledge. Dance movement therapy utilises dance and movement to assist in integration of body, mind and spirit, in a professional modality that was identi ed only in the mid-twentieth century. Parallels between these practices observed by dance movement therapists include a holistic approach to wellness and priority on non-verbal communication achieved through shared rhythmic movement. Many of the signi cant challenges faced by Indigenous communities in contemporary Australia, including transgenerational trauma, have been impacted positively by dance movement therapy interventions in other countries. However, currently there is no documented evidence that the practice is being utilised in Australia. This chapter responds to that issue in offering ideas to support dance movement therapists to be culturally competent and respectful in efforts to engage with Indigenous peoples of their nation. Recommendations include the development of genuine partnerships and relationships that enable two-way learning, to develop culturally safe programs that acknowledge and respect Indigenous ways of knowing and living.