Global gathering of First Nations gathers pace

24 October 2018
First Nations people from across the globe will attend the eighth Gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide on Cadigal Country in Sydney next month, to build solutions for First Nations communities.
Two men, one wearing a traditional headdress, embracing

Healing Our Spirit Worldwide's 7th gathering was held in New Zealand in 2015.

The full program for the four-day Gathering has just been announced, promising a strong line-up of more than 100 speakers as well as cultural performances, networking zones, healing activities and world-class entertainment.

Co-hosted by The Healing Foundation and the University of Sydney, it will be the largest event of its kind in Australia, attracting traditional Aboriginal healers and cultural custodians from countries like Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand, Norway and the United States; as well as trauma experts, academics, politicians and service providers.

Co-chair of the organising committee Professor Juanita Sherwood, from the University of Sydney, said: “First Nations communities from around the world face similar challenges, resulting from hundreds of years of colonisation, and the solutions to those issues will come from our shared wisdom and experiences.  

“By sharing stories and highlighting successful education and healing opportunities, participants will learn from each other and create a different future For Our Grandchildren’s Grandchildren, which is the overarching theme of the 2018 Gathering,” she said.

Speakers will highlight innovative healing-centred projects that are improving health and prosperity outcomes in communities around the world, as well as emerging research to inform future policies and initiatives.
Professor Juanita Sherwood, the University of Sydney

The Gathering will cover a wide range of topics, including traditional child rearing, cultural and language re-connection, reducing alcohol abuse, tackling domestic violence, suicide and mental health and using traditional food as medicine.

The Healing Foundation CEO, Richard Weston, said it was a timely opportunity to focus on healing solutions in Australia, following the recent release of a report that illustrates the link between harmful actions of colonisation and the symptoms of unresolved and Intergenerational Trauma.

The study, collated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, uncovers an alarming level of disadvantage for the Stolen Generations and their descendants, who are more likely to experience trauma related issues like poor mental health, violence, contact with the justice system and substance abuse.

“The Gathering’s focus on youth is a deliberate attempt to raise awareness about the need for ongoing healing and to change the future through innovation, smart investment and self-determination,” said Mr Weston.

“More than half of today’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander population is aged under 25.

If we learn from the collective wisdom of global First Nations cultures now, we have the opportunity to create a different future for them – where trauma, and its ugly symptoms, are not part of their everyday lives.
Richard Weston, The Healing Foundation

In addition to the learning opportunities, Healing Our Spirit Worldwide will be a major celebration of First Nations cultures. The Gathering will kick-off with a Parade of Nations on 26 November, and there will be an opportunity to see world-class performers like the Yothu Yindi Band, Rocky Dawuni and Stevie Salas. 

“The Gathering Place will provide a venue for all participants to meet between sessions, to tell stories, strengthen ideas and build international healing relationships,” said Mr Weston.

“The harmful and deliberate practices of colonisation created widespread disconnection in First Nations communities and so we all benefit from projects that reconnect and rebuild relationships - within families and communities, as well as nationally and globally.”

Registrations for the Gathering are still open, with discounts for community Elders and young people.

Professor Sherwood said: “People can also get involved through sponsorship, donations to help community Elders and members travel to the Gathering, setting up a market stall in the Gathering Place or just coming along to some of the cultural activities, which are open to the public.

“Volunteer opportunities are also available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and students to work at the Gathering and enjoy some of the program sessions in between rostered hours of work.”

Facts About Healing Our Spirit Worldwide

Healing Our Spirit Worldwide began in Canada in 1992 with a gathering in Edmonton. It was originally focused on addressing substance abuse, which is an ongoing symptom of trauma. However, it has broadened its scope to address the many factors affecting First Nations communities around the world. Gatherings have been held approximately every four years since 1992.

The Eighth Gathering will be held from 26 – 29 November 2018, on Cadigal country, at Sydney’s International Convention Centre. For more details, visit the official website –

Gawuwi gamarda Healing Our Spirit Worldwidegu Ngalya nangari nura Cadigalmirung.

Calling our friends to come, to be at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide. We meet on the country of the Cadigal.

Related articles