Fiona Cornforth is a Wuthathi descendant of the far northeast cape of Queensland with family roots also in the Torres Strait Islands. She has an extensive background working as part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' community, business and government initiatives for better outcomes and impact. On a foundation of senior and leadership roles in the community, and all tiers of government, she has used management degrees and tertiary teaching accreditation to raise awareness around the impacts of intergenerational trauma and the power and strengths of First Nations peoples' cultures for healing.
Fiona has gained experience and perspectives in education, leadership and business development globally and shares a message of celebration and gratitude for the greatness of ancestors, elders, and the ontology and authority that holds her and her family.
Fiona very kindly shared her insights with the Life in Mind team about why The Healing Foundation signed the National Communications Charter and what it means to be a Life in Mind Champion.
Q&A with Fiona Petersen, The Healing Foundation
Why did The Healing Foundation sign the National Communications Charter?
Suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is preventable. It is a major cause of premature mortality for First Nations peoples and is a contributor to the overall life expectancy gap. Intergenerational trauma is one of the explanations for this and The Healing Foundation works alongside communities to raise awareness about addressing trauma, and how healing happens. We signed The Charter because we are committed to urgent awareness-raising and change that creates a different future for the most vulnerable in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
What does being a Life in Mind Champion mean to you?
The evidence tells us that a strong connection with those elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that have always kept us safe and well is a protective factor. Our knowledge remains key to our strength and power to overcome trauma, and the resilience and courage powerfully demonstrated in stories of survival from the Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants' fuels our efforts to make the difference needed. A strengths-based language and discourse empower First Nations peoples. A mental health and wellbeing support service system must be equipped to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with leading solutions that keep our peoples surviving and thriving.
What is the most rewarding or enjoyable part of your role?
Walking alongside communities where they unearth their power in culture to create stronger people and families. In addition to sharing insights and evidence about trauma impacts and healing opportunities with services, workforces, sectors and systems which we know makes a difference. Highlighting the community-led solutions and the impact that they can have on healing is also rewarding. So too is putting the true narrative behind statistics and data analysis that all too often speaks to deficits. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not create this scenario – the systems we are forced to interact with from colonisation did, and are long overdue to become equipped for creating the change that focuses on healing and ends intergenerational trauma.
Summary of The Healing Foundation’s focus
The Healing Foundation is using the most impactful ways of working with systems (workforce by workforce, sector by sector) to inspire pragmatic action that contributes best to healing for Stolen Generations survivors, descendants, their families and communities. We create the desire and commitment to apply trauma-aware and healing-informed approaches to working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across this continent, strengthening people, culture and spirit. We role model these approaches creating a place of safety and the most supportive of environments for Stolen Generations survivors and their families to speak for themselves and tell their stories, which should always be central to effective healing.