A MINDUP journey down under

By Carolyn Gelenter, MindUP Consultant

 

In 2014, MindUP was introduced to 5 schools in Perth, Western Australia. A UK MindUP consultant facilitated training and ran workshops as part of a project to implement the programme in Western Australia. We continue to support the schools with their MindUP journey.

Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools

In the summer of 2018, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools multiple campuses, spread out across hundreds of kilometres in the red desert outback.

Earlier in the year in Perth, I trained some staff from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools in MindUP, including the school psychologist, Tim. I was travelling back to Perth in the summer to run a MindUP workshop for another organisation, so I contacted Tim to arrange a visit to see how they were getting on with MindUP in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools.

I didn’t know if it would be possible to visit, as I was visiting Perth, which is hundreds of miles away and the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools are located in a remote part of Western Australia, a visa is needed to enter the region as the Natjanjarra Lands are managed by the Aboriginal people. But Tim came back with an offer of a lifetime!

The Ngaanyatjarra Lands Communities

I visited several of the schools spread across hundreds of miles in separate communities. Each community and school had issues in common arising from historical and contemporary trauma-related experiences. One of the major difficulties for the young people was the lack of access to basic amenities, such as a playground, and higher education and job opportunities.

Their MindUP Experience

MindUP was taught consistently, with belief in its value, and it’s clear that it made a difference. Some teachers talked about how the information about the brain was really helping their students understand their thinking processes and what was happening when they reacted rather than responded to a situation.

Staff commented on the MindUP core practice, the Brain Break, and how some students were using it to calm their anger. This is significant due to the challenges they face in their communities both due to historical trauma and contemporary conditions. At one point there were two young children having a huge verbal and physical fight. I had my trusty Hoberman Sphere and went to one of the children, put it in their hands and demonstrated pushing and pulling the sphere, coordinating it with breathing in and out. This child immediately calmed down. Tim subsequently ordered Hoberman Spheres for all of the schools!

Tim is in the process of translating some of the MindUP materials into an Aboriginal language. The ‘aunties’ within the community have commented that the Brain Breaks are very harmonious with their culture. For many of the surviving Aboriginal clans who are semi or fully living outside of the western system, stillness is a traditional part of their cultures.

Challenges and Rewards

I think that MindUP in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands has great potential. Thanks to individuals like Tim, willing to stand up, take the lead and support others in their journey with consistency and persistence, MindUP can really make a difference. There are many obstacles to overcome but the commitment of Tim and school senior leaders is inspiring. We look forward to further supporting the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools in their MindUP journey.

“My journey down under felt more like a holiday and it was an amazing opportunity for which I will be eternally grateful.”

– Carolyn Gelenter

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