Postcards from Practice: Initial Learnings from the Name.Narrate.Navigate Program

I’ve been part of a practice/research project, Name.Narrate.Navigate (NNN), a program exploring trauma-informed, culturally-sensitive responses to family and domestic violence by young people. NNN, works with young people who have committed family and domestic violence; are identified at risk of coming into contact with the justice system for the same; or who live in family and community contexts with high rates of family and domestic violence. The program also works to upskill practitioners in a range of sectors to work with these young people in ways that address the spectrum of violence, abuse and trauma from victimisation through perpetration.

We have just published a summary of some of our initial learnings. The report is freely available in two formats from https://nova.newcastle.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/uon:37573

  1. Single page to a page (better for reading online)
  2. Two pages to a page (possibly better for printing.

As the project included photovoice activities, our graphic designer (Louie Hahn who used to work at the Family Action Centre) was able to include lots of photos. It is amazing the difference the good layout can make to a report.

Following is the abstract of the report and some pages from the report.

Executive summary

NNN is a preventive intervention program focused on psychoeducation and skill development for young people at increased risk of using violence, those already using violence in their interpersonal, family and domestic relationships, and the cross-sector workers who support them.

It aims to increase knowledge and skills, strengthen adaptive behaviour and build connections for greater confidence and coping.

NNN was developed and is continuously improved by a program of community-based participatory research involving Aboriginal elders, community members, practitioners, peak bodies and young people. It is distinct from other preventive intervention initiatives in its dual focus on working with young people and practitioners.

NNN emphasises trauma-informed, culturally responsive and parallel process in practice.

The program is evidence-based and informed by experiential learning, universal design and dialectical behaviour therapy, and it uses creative, participatory methods including mindfulness and photovoice. It explores how young people and workers name, narrate and navigate violence in individual and community life, and how they engage with key drivers of violence, including emotional literacy; communication skills; empathy; power and control; blame, shame and choice.

Young people (referred by justice, education and community service partners) engage in a program of interactive group workshops, while practitioners learn from and alongside young people through engaged professional development themed around program content, emerging findings and feedback.

Key practice principles of the program include emphasis on:

  • mindful participation
  • reciprocal communication
  • validation of trauma
  • building new skills.

These practice principles acknowledge the unique, yet seemingly ubiquitous, challenges of working with young people who are at risk of, or already using, violence.

These young people commonly exist as part of a cross-over cohort; they are simultaneously victims and perpetrators, characteristically disadvantaged and disengaged from services, and often described as ‘hard to reach’ and ‘harder to engage’.

Methods used in the program, such as photovoice, encourage story-telling, are consistent with Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing, and have been demonstrated as effective in supporting vulnerable populations to reveal novel and expressive insights into complex and challenging experiences.

This report details the background of the NNN program, the core practice principles and program components, along with initial learnings from the young people participating in the program. Findings related to practitioner outcomes will be reported in a separate report and peer-reviewed publications.

Summary of learnings

Participants in NNN identify ‘invalidation’ as a potential driver of violence. They describe not feeling seen and heard, and their experiences dismissed or diminished by peers, family, workers and systems, which leads them to use violence to communicate and sometimes find a connection with others.

Exploring empathy with NNN participants highlights that ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’ can be more or less difficult depending on whether someone has put themselves in yours. Between genders, empathy was variously associated with grief, loss and socially sanctioned schemas of what can be talked about.

For the young people we have worked with, the experience and exercise of power and control is pervasive, structural and systemic in their everyday lives. We have also observed that it is enacted through gendered dynamics in unexpected ways.

Female participants in NNN experienced naturalistic restoration in their relationships with peer offenders and victims. This was observed in acts of sharing, caring and co-creating.

Experiences of naturalistic restoration highlighted the power of place and positionality, and what is possible and permissible in reaching resolution and restoration for these young people.

A few personal comments

I’ve learnt a great deal working on this project and I’ve been lucky to be part of a strong team. Unfortunately the pandemic meant that we were not able to run as many workshops as we would have otherwise, but it has allowed us to reflect on the workshops and do some writing. We have a book based on the work due by the end of the year.

The report includes some initial findings in relation to invalidation, empathy, power and control, and restorative practice in place. As one of the team, Louise Rak, is using the project to explore narratives of violence by young women as part of he PhD, we have had some interesting discussion. It’s wonderful to have our thinking challenged.

The full reference for the report is:

Blakemore, T., McCarthy, S., Rak, L., McGregor, J., Stuart, G., & Krogh, C. (2021).
Postcards from practice: Initial learnings from Name.Narrate.Navigate.
University of Newcastle. https://nova.newcastle.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/uon:37573

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Name.Narrate.Navigate: a program for young people who use violence in their families
  2. The Alternatives to Violence Project: Reflections on a strengths-based approach to nonviolent relationships and conflict resolution
  3. 12 principles of a problem-solving approach to conflict resolution
  4. Principles of nonviolence
  5. Nonviolence as a Framework for Youth Work Practice
  6. Power and strengths-based practice

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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