We had the pleasure of speaking with Paige Bullen, the Project Manager for Chaplaincy in Community at Catholic Care NSW. Paige had previously received training in the Seasons for Growth Adult program and recently participated in the Seasons for Healing training as part of the funding project in Southwest Sydney.

Paige was asked to collaborate with the team at Guthrie House as part of her role with CatholicCare. Guthrie House is a non-profit organisation that provides transitional services for women, including those with infants under their full-time care. The facility is designed to help women who are currently involved in the criminal justice system and provides three months of residential care, with an aftercare component of up to 12 months. CatholicCare and Guthrie House have a memorandum of understanding that permits CatholicCare facilitators to conduct a small group program every quarter at their location.

It was decided that due to the significant number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women attending the group, Seasons for Healing would be a culturally appropriate and safe program for those attending.

Paige recently facilitated the first Seasons for Healing small group at Guthrie House, in collaboration with Sue Fowles, the Aboriginal Support Worker at Guthrie House. Paige worked closely with Sue to facilitate the group, whose cultural knowledge ensured the women felt safe and comfortable. Over the course of the program, the women grew to trust and share with each other. Working with Sue also allowed for a cultural exchange, where she shared her perspective while acknowledging that she didn’t speak for everyone. This created a space where participants felt comfortable sharing their own unique experiences and perspectives.

Sue was able to identify considerations to support the women’s attendance and modify the implementation plan to ensure the group was able to participate as fully as possible.

Paige recognised that limited literacy levels was potentially a barrier for the women provided feedback through a formal evaluation process and offered the group alternate ways of sharing their feedback and thoughts through the group process.  For example, through their body language and their commitment to attending the group on a regular basis amid juggling appointments and the needs of their babies.  

The participants provided feedback about the theme of forgiveness.  Seasons for Healing explores the concept of forgiveness and how this can for some people feel like they are ‘stuck’ in their grief or be a barrier to the moving forward in their healing and their lives. The group shared that they found the video on forgiveness to be very powerful and the impact of storytelling and how the person sharing this story found forgiveness in their life.  For some of those attending this group, forgiving themselves and others is something they grapple with daily.  How they see themselves in the light of all they have been through, and seeking to find a way forward through the challenges and difficulties of their past can be extremely difficult. For this group, forgiveness felt like an invitation to find healing and a new way forward.

Paige has already communicated with Guthrie House, and they have proposed additional dates for supporting the women with Seasons for Healing.  Paige is optimistic that CatholicCare companions will be able to continue to offer the program, collaborating with Sue, to provide a culturally safe and appropriate program for the women at Guthrie House.  Paige reflects, “There was so much learning from the first program, and I am really looking forward to the next invitation”.