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A Story of Connection and “Circular Healing”

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Dr Leonie White – Clinical Family Therapist and Psychologist

With Beau Motlop – Artist

This story starts in March 2021 when I met Beau Motlop in Cairns – a meeting I am grateful for in many ways.

I had travelled up from Brisbane to Cairns to facilitate the workshop “Key Skills in Family Therapy”. Travelling and facilitating training, especially on topics close to my heart, is a favourite part of my work. It gives me the opportunity to meet other helping professionals, share ideas, and learn more myself because conversations with others always introduce new insights and information that effectively create what in Systemic Practice we call a “positive feedback loop” – the ongoing change and evolution of thinking, ideas, and actions through the introduction of “news of difference”.

Meeting Beau in Cairns provided an important positive feedback loop, for myself and my QIFT Co-Director Kate. I can picture the room we were using for the workshop and the group seated at tables, I remember stumbling with pronunciation of the name of the Traditional Owners of the land and being grateful that Beau jumped in to help me, and I remember Beau approaching me to chat in breaks. I love it when people come and chat.

Beau’s chats formed the start of our journey together, his ideas got me thinking and re-thinking and questioning, and his support helped with taking steps to increase my knowledge and understanding, have the confidence to ask questions, and ultimately to support the work that I do, and that Kate and QIFT does. For my part, I know I have many more steps to take but I feel comfortable on the journey knowing Beau, and others I meet along the way will become part of my journey – just another example for me that highlights the importance of relationships and community.

After returning home from Cairns, I kept thinking about my conversations with Beau, and conversations I’d had previously with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People. This also coincided with an article I had read about cultural humility. As someone of European ancestry who works in the helping profession this concept resonated with me. As it turns out synchronicity was at work because Kate had been travelling down the same line of thinking, reading and wondering, and we decided our next step would be to consider how to make ourselves and our workshops more acknowledging and welcoming.

If “synchronicity is an inexplicable and profoundly meaningful coincidence that stirs the soul” (Phil Cousineau), then you would also say that it describes my meeting with Beau and the QIFT collaboration that followed.

We are thrilled that Beau agreed to create a piece of art for QIFT, and also with his generosity of time and patience to help with our journey as we support others. Our hope for the art Beau created, “Healing Circles”, is that by including this in our Acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners of the Land, and by displaying it in workshops and groups, we are taking a step to increase acknowledgement, and to make more people feel more welcome, included, and comfortable. We are also excited to consider more ways to include art, and to continue with the journal of cultural humility.

Q and A with Beau

What is it about Family Therapy that you find helpful, or that draws your attention?

I like the idea of being able to draw on many different strategies and ideas. I also like being able to map out the problem and attempt to come up with a holistic approach to the issue. Is there anything about the creative journey you'd like to share?

I pictured people sitting in a positive circle with all types of support surrounding them, I wanted to use relaxing and calming colours and of course emphasise our countries ancient Indigenous connection. I used Aboriginal symbolism for people, I used weaving patterns to represent strength. I also wanted both Doctors and the practice of family therapy to really stand out in the art. What do you think about the idea of including art in workshops and groups in this way?

As you know I am a huge advocate of Indigenous progression within current therapy practice frameworks, Art is one of the few things that Indigenous people in this country were able to hold onto after colonisation. I believe that including Indigenous art is a huge step towards inclusion, cultural connection and cultural sensitivity. What is your hope for the art you created for QIFT?

My hope is that the artwork will help with inclusion, and it helps Indigenous people to feel more welcome and at ease that our mobs culture is acknowledged. The acknowledgment of country is very important but if we can go a step further and include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork as part of frameworks and practices, well that there, is progression!!

The Story of “Circular Healing”

The u shapes (Aboriginal symbolism for people) are family members, backs to each other and talking individually.

The u shapes in the middle are a representation of family members reconnecting/hugging and progressing forwards.

The three colourful circle motifs are a representation of the both of you (Leonie and Kate) and the idea of family therapy.

The decorated pillars around the centre u shapes are symbolising ancestors, culture and the dreaming. All in support of positive family dynamics.

The blues are healing waters and the reds are mother earth.

Beau’s Story

I grew up in Cairns, Far North Queensland from the age of eight years old. My background includes Aboriginal from the Djirrabal tribe of the Surrounding Cairns region, Torres strait island descendance from the Wagaduggum tribe of Mabuiag Island as well as Ngapuhi from New Zealand. My Torres Strait Island Totems are Crocodile, Snake and Remora.

2006 is when I started to take my art practice seriously and began experimenting with various mediums including pencil, pastels and acrylic paint I now do the majority of my artwork digitally.

I love to create depth and dimensions with colours and size differences, I use an abundance of detail and intricate patterns, but I also like to balance out my artwork with emptiness and quiet. My motifs and circular patterns are a unique combination drawn from my three Indigenous heritages.

Beau can be contacted through his Instagram account.


Please note that this article is educational in nature and does not constitute professional advice.

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