Musical festival makes steps towards emotional healing

October 4, 2017

Healing through music: Dr Petra Skeffington accompanied the Desert Feet Tour.

A Murdoch University counselling researcher hit the road with a travelling musical festival recently to assess the effects of music on the emotional healing of a remote Aboriginal community.

Dr Petra Skeffington, who is a Clinical Psychologist and trauma researcher, joined the Desert Feet Tour on its annual pilgrimage to Wangkatjungka remote community in the Kimberley.

Dr Skeffington was inspired to get involved in the project after watching a performance by Mrs Olive Knight, an Elder from the Wangkatjungka community and renowned musician, who is a passionate advocate for the power of healing through music.

“The Desert Feet Tour is all about a group of musicians travelling to communities to teach music skills and record songs,” Dr Skeffington said.

“It is a wonderfully positive program that is well received by participants, and the community was interested in evaluating its effectiveness as an opportunity for healing.”

Through a grant from Murdoch University’s School of Health Professions, Dr Skeffington travelled along with the tour group to the Wangkatjungka community.

During her two-week stay Dr Skeffington conducted in-depth interviews with participants about what they got out of participating in the program.

She also assessed whether healing is occurring on a physical level, measuring levels of the stress hormone cortisol before and after participation in the program.

“There is a depth of tradition around song and music in this community and it is a natural avenue for them to express themselves,” Dr Skeffington said.

“Some people have experiences in their past that are just unspeakable. Where there is not a culture of talking directly about trauma, music and movement can help people to embody experiences that are hard to talk about.”

Dr Skeffington said the responses of the community to the program were very forward thinking.

“This program is clearly offering more than an enjoyable few days of music,” she said.

“People were keen to find a way to develop longevity into the program with clear outcomes.”

Dr Skeffington will return to the community early next year to talk to them about the results of her investigations.

“The biggest challenge in this field is structure and helping communities to plan and maintain positive programs,” Dr Skeffington said.

“Music therapy through a program like this forms an important part of the conversation about mental health and healing on country.”

The Desert Feet Tour was funded by a WA Mental Health Commission Suicide Prevention grant and by Nomad Two Worlds Foundation, as a pilot project to create a community-driven mental health improvement and suicide prevention program using music.

An ABC 730 report interview about the tour can be viewed here.

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!