PALS Intercultural Support

Ms Naomi Havens1

1Anglicare NT, Winnellie, Australia


The Play And Learn Support (PALS) Program uses bicultural communication resources developed with East Arnhem Land Yolngu workers and families since 2007 for facilitated discussions about life goals, brain development, children’s needs and responsive parenting. The resources and approaches used represent metaphors embedded in Yolngu people’s identity and life experiences. Service providers and families¬† communicating their experiences and values facilitated by metaphors, gives program participants increasing opportunities to develop a shared understanding of each other’s roles and priorities. PALS resources and approaches have been shown to open discussion and give participants insight in areas of children’s play needs, nutrition, processing trauma experiences, understanding emotional expression and communication (e.g. withdrawal and aggressive behaviours), understanding parenting influences, and addictive behaviours (e.g. gambling, alcohol and substance misuse). PALS resources and approaches have also proven effective in negotiating and expressing values between mainstream cultures and Yolngu cultures, seen as Yolngu families communicating their needs and experiences more meaningfully to service workers and service workers clarifying and increasing access of their service to Yolngu families.


Naomi Havens is an Occupational Therapist working with the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land with intercultural concepts. Her current work approaches have been shaped by post graduate work in Darwin as a paediatric Occupational Therapist, then living and working for 5 years at Galiwin’ku community in local Yolngu languages with adult education principles in health education. Naomi also concurrently worked in her PALS role with Yolngu families and StandBy, a response service for people bereaved by suicide. In 2015 Naomi added a Graduate Certificate of Play Therapy.

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