Red Dust Healing, a program aimed at helping people to lead better lives, was held at the Narrandera TAFE Campus last Wednesday. The program was created and facilitated by Tom Powell who uses a variety of tools to help people achieve this aim.
“They’re just visual holistic tools to help people deal with the hurt in their lives,” he said. “It’s also about understanding and about getting to the underlying factor of rejection.
“When we look at rejection, we look at the nature of it, the causes of it, but most importantly, the remedies for it. If you haven’t been shown love, how can you show love? So remedies are how we do it.”
While the program was originally aimed at Aboriginal men and boys, Red Dust Healing reaches out for people across society, and also offers support programs for relatives of suicide victims and people with disabilities. In the program, Mr Powell uses strong visual metaphors to carry the messages across.
“You see the focus of the tree. So in the tree, the root system is family and friends. The trunk of the tree becomes us and the branches are the choices we make.
“When we look at our choices, who wins and who loses? If you get to a fork in the branch and make a good choice, you stay on your tree. If you make a bad choice, the further out the branch you go and the skinnier it gets.
“What can happen is we get out, we make bad choices, and we fall back down to our loved ones and they pick us back up and steer us back on track.”
Mr Powell uses other tools as guides to make good choices, often in ways that are commonsense, practical and easy to apply.
“Staying out of the JIG, for instance, is about avoiding the jealousy, the insecurity and the greed that is so much a part of our lives nowadays”, Mr Powell said, and he uses a powerful argument of remembering the lore versus the law.
“I use LORE – land, origin, respect and elders – to avoid the LAW; legalities, attorney general, the Westminster system. Maintain your dignity, integrity, keep your power and freedom and don’t give up your LORE to the LAW. But law is there to protect us from other people who give up their dignity and integrity, their power and freedom.”
Later in the day, Mr Powell used the afternoon session to discuss mental health and suicide.
“Suicide safeguarding is the word I choose to use. My suicide safeguarding campaign I call ‘You’re somebody’s someone.’ “You’re somebody’s son, you’re somebody’s daughter, you’re somebody’s mum, you’re somebody’s someone. And it’s just really, really important.
“I go back to the tree. We stop looking up to see our choices, and we block the love off coming from underneath, and we close off into a dark hole in the middle of the tree. It becomes claustrophobic because we can’t breathe, we can’t think. We’re all over the place, and we’re not thinking straight because of that closure, and that blocking.
“I go back, and I use LORE – land, origin, respect and Red Dust aims to help life choices elders – who are you from, where are you from, who are you close to? You are somebody’s somebody, you
are somebody’s daughter. You have that yarn, you reach out to people.”
Mr Powell grew up in Narromine, a Warramunga Man from within the Wiradjuri Nation. Mr Powell’s father, Noel Powell, owned a grading business. Red Dust Healing grew out of one of Mr Powell’s earliest memories of his father.
“I was about four years old, in a caravan doorway – I now know it was out near Ivanhoe, in far western NSW. I could hear the machine pull up, and he pulled up and the wind was still blowing, blowing. His image walked up out of that red dust, so I call it Red Dust Healing.”
Despite following his father into the business, Mr Powell felt he wanted to help other people and in 1994 he studied a community welfare course at night at Dubbo TAFE.
“I spent 12-13 years with juvenile justice, helping young people, but I needed to take it home. I wanted to help the whole family.
“Red Dust is about restoring families, and about helping people to protect each other, and to make them aware of how precious their life is,” Mr Powell said.