Shields for Living, Tools for Life
July 18, 2019
Support ‘Shields For Living, Tools For Life’
October 24, 2019
Shields for Living, Tools for Life
July 18, 2019
Support ‘Shields For Living, Tools For Life’
October 24, 2019

Talking about ‘Shields for Living, Tools for Life’

At the recent launch of the NT Government’s ‘Creating Safer Communities: Back on Track – Cutting Youth Crime’ Plan, Minister Dale Wakefield spoke to Mr Chris Croker, Acting Chair of CASSE, about our track record working with Aboriginal people on country in remote communities, as well as the intensive six month program for high-risk young people – ‘Shields for Living, Tools for Life’ – we will be delivering in central Australia as part of the plan.

Click here to watch the video

About the Program 

CASSE operates within a dual psychological and cultural framework. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are among the most disadvantaged and disengaged people in the country. The trauma landscape manifests itself in the staggeringly high rates of Indigenous youth detention.

Through ‘Shields for Living, Tools for Life’, CASSE will work with 30 repeat offenders from the Alice Springs region to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The program will involve ongoing participation over a six-month period in therapeutic programs and workshops that are based in cultural practices and emphasise the importance of reflection, healing and reparation. 

Reflective psychological meetings to talk about the cycle of trauma and offending are a core component of the program.

Each participant will participate in the following therapeutic activities:

1. Cultural Camps

Led by the Men’s Tjilirra Movement and an Aboriginal mentor, each camp will involve participants from the same language group and will ideally be held on the participant’s country and include family/Elders from that community.

A variety of cultural practices can be enabled to develop cultural resiliency:

  • Learning and the making of traditional tools
  • Engaging in cultural practices such as ‘caring for country’
  • Tjukurpa stories and song and dance
  • Hunting and gathering and traditional cooking skills
  • Making a traditional tool for repatriation and reparation (tools are given to commercial/residential property damaged where possible)
  • Making a traditional shield for protection to strengthen spirit
  • Campfire storymaking about offending, troubles, healing, repatriation and cultural stories

2. Reflective Group Meetings

Participants will attend a one-day Reflective Group Meeting after each of the Cultural Camps. The Reflective Group Meetings will be held by a clinical psychologist/psychotherapist and cultural consultant. The Elders/family/carers who attend the Cultural Camp will also participate in the session.

The Reflective Group Meetings will determine:

  • the needs of participants
  • the value of the MTM treatment program
  • changes in self and cultural competencies, as well as ability to make positive life choices.

The Reflective Group Meetings will also involve a psychological session on trauma and transformative tools and a session on strong cultural practice.

3. Forensic Rehabilitation Meetings

Two Forensic Rehabilitation Meetings will be held pre and post the Cultural Camps. These sessions will be held by a forensic psychologist and will draw on the Breakthrough Violence Program developed by CASSE in partnership with CAACAC.

The purpose of the Forensic Rehabilitation Meetings is to increase awareness and understanding of motivations, triggers, patterns and impacts on behaviours, as well as enhance empathy for the other and develop new stories and tools for good lives.

4. Assessment of impact and efficacy

CASSE will be assessing the impact and efficacy of cultural camps on country with a tool which assesses for cultural competency using the Westerman Aboriginal Symptom Checklist-Youth (WASC-Y). CASSE will also assess changes in social and emotional wellbeing with culturally appropriate tools assessing mental state and family/social supports.

‘Shields for Living, Tools for Life’ is a great opportunity for CASSE, young people and families, as we know the MTM has a positive impact on cultural competency, strengthening social and emotional wellbeing, and reducing recidivism.

Work has already commenced with planning, such as meetings with stakeholders, working with youth and identifying their referral pathways – and seeking great people on the ground to deliver the program and evaluation.
CASSE is privileged to be part of the massive ‘Back on Track’ venture, working in with key stakeholders and NT Families, and we believe changes will be catalysed and Tools for Living and Life will be emergent and galvanised.


CASSE (Creating A Safe Supportive Environment) is a grassroots not-for-profit organisation established in 2009 to work with Aboriginal communities to overcome trauma through evidence informed cultural revival and psychological healing programs. CASSE applies cultural and psychoanalytic methods to catalyse change and recovery in Aboriginal communities, building capacity to redress and overcome intergenerational trauma, violence and loss.

CASSE’s approach builds self-esteem, identity, capacity, wellbeing and pride through:

  • transmission of cultural knowledge and skills about tjilirra (traditional tools), caring for country, traditional hunting and gathering, singing song lines, dancing and visiting Dreaming sites;
  • strengthening connections between generations;
  • facilitating culturally appropriate trauma-informed therapy on traditional lands;
  • mentoring and training; and
  • developing and promoting best practice models.

CASSE’s unique approach involves the application of the Men’s Tjilirra Movement (MTM). MTM is a place-based community-driven approach to trauma recovery that addresses a major gap in preventative programs through focusing on reconnection with culture and country and supporting psychological growth.

Key outcomes sought through CASSE’s programs and activities include reduced family violence, suicide, incarceration and child removal.

For more information email