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Location: Home Services Youth and Children Healing Our Children (HOC) project

Healing Our Children (HOC) project

HOC is an early intervention and prevention project operating in remote and urban Aboriginal communities of the Top End. The project was developed out of the expressed needs of Tiwi Elders concerned about the impact of violence and other trauma on their grandchildren.

Healing Our Children (HOC) project

Using the knowledge and wisdom of Elders and latest research from neuroscience and attachment theory, a culturally safe storytelling toolkit was developed.  “It Takes a Forest to Raise a Tree’ uses metaphors to invite women into a safe and non-shaming conversation about the effects of violence and other trauma on children.

Our empowerment model trains, mentors and supports local Aboriginal women to facilitate educaring* support groups with pregnant women and mothers using a two-way learning approach.  We can also provide an individual in-home service where women are unable to attend a group.

Project Aims

Research shows that exposure to stressful and traumatic experiences in the first 1,000 days of life increases the risk of the child having problems in later life, such as learning difficulties in school, challenging behaviours, memory and emotional problems, violence or criminal behaviour, substance misuse and even self-harm and suicide.  For unborn babies, toxic stress is felt through the mother’s hormonal system.  For babies and toddlers keeping close to their mother, they may witness or suffer injuries from domestic and family violence.  When families and communities respond in nurturing ways protecting children from harm in the first three years of life, they are helping baby’s brain develop to its full potential.

The number of Aboriginal children being removed from families due to concerns about safety and well-being is deeply concerning.  HOC aims to strengthen families through early intervention and trauma prevention.

  • to build the capacity of strong Aboriginal women in community to respond to the needs of vulnerable mothers and children experiencing violence and abuse
  • increase the knowledge of Aboriginal mothers and carers about the impact of violence, neglect and abuse on children’s brain development
  • Reduce the risks of Aboriginal children particularly in utero and under 3 years of age being exposed to domestic and family violence and other traumatic events
  • Prevent the long term effects of trauma including mental health issues and problematic behaviour, learning and memory problems suffered as a result of exposure to domestic and family violence and other trauma in the first three years of life. 

Our key message is to ‘care for your baby’s brain, just like you would care for your country’.


HOC currently employs local Aboriginal people on the Tiwi islands and Palmerston as Group Facilitators and Support Workers.  We are also expanding to Katherine from May 2017.


The first 12 month trial of HOC on the Tiwi Islands was evaluated by an independent Evaluator with the assistance of a local Review Team of 6 community members on Bathurst Island.  The learnings and recommendations from this report, continue to guide and shape the development of this project across the Top End.  You can read the full report HERE

The Pinyama tree represents the Evaluation model adopted by the Tiwi people in the Healing Our Children (HOC) project.  Artist Cosi Tipiloura says “The seed on the Pinyama is like starting new life and new babies being born.   It is about looking forward to a strong future with our strong families in strong culture.  The tunga full of good quality fruit represents a good quality program that is good and healthy for Tiwi people.”


The following women would benefit from this program.

  • Women who are pregnant or thinking about having a family.
  • Women who have young children under 3 yo.
  • Women with older children who have been exposed to violence or other trauma.

Download our Referral Form HERE


Enquiries can be directed to the HOC Project Co-Ordinator - call 08 8923 4999.


For more information about the storytelling toolkit used in this project, click here (

Some of our resources are available to the public.  Your purchase helps to fund our work.  Click here to browse and order

Connect with Us

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We post all sorts of useful information related to trauma, children and parenting, as well as promote our project activities.


From 2015-2017, the initial trial of this project is funded under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

We acknowledge and thank the following supporters and funders of this project:Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Don Whyte Framing

*Educaring is a term coined by Judy Atkinson to describe a trauma-informed approach to engaging disadvantaged people in an educational setting.

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