Playground Politics & Bullying Awareness – January 29th 2018

RANT Counsellor, Dagmara Rowlands, sheds some light on how to recognise bullying and steps to take if your child is being bullied. 

The holidays are coming to an end and while back to school may be a sigh of relief for parents, who have been juggling child care and entertainment for weeks, it can be a difficult time for kids. School can be stressful, for any number of reasons, other than the dreaded homework. Back to school could mean starting a new school, making friends and negotiating ever present playground politics.

Bullying is a serious issue in schools, and while many principals and teachers assure a zero tolerance policy, it can sometimes be hard to recognise and manage.

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Relationships Australia NT recognises the impact that bullying can have not only on the child themselves but also the parents and family. As the bullying beast takes many forms there is no hard or fast rule for defeat, but it can be helpful for parents to recognise some signs and not underestimate the lasting effects of schoolyard taunting.

While we could endlessly talk about the varied signs and symptoms of bullying, RANT counsellor, Dagmara Rowlands, briefly sheds some light on behaviours to be aware of and some steps to take in the presence of bullying.

“When a child is verbalising a desire to not go to school or has a noticeable decline in school performance, these are obvious warning signals, especially when coupled with lost or destroyed property and unexplained injuries.”

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However, signs of difficulties at school are not always so plain.

“Parents should be alert to changes in mood, behaviour and physical appearance of their children.” Whilst some signs may be difficult to register, especially in teenagers whom are known for their unpredictable emotions, “moodiness, irritability and withdrawal, along with difficulties getting out of bed” may be something other than just teen angst. “Being aware of changes in eating habits, frequent stomach or headaches and faking illnesses is important as these may indicate anxiety.”

It is also important to take note of how your child is socialising. While kids are known to chop and change groups as they mature, sudden social withdrawal and loss of friends may indicate more than the natural transience of childhood friendships.

So what is to be done? Firstly, even acknowledging bullying can seem daunting for both children and parents. Naming the issue might make it seem bigger than you want it to be, or a real problem for which you don’t have a tangible solution or parental wisdom.

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“Finding out that your child is being bullied can be upsetting. The most important first step for parents is to stay calm and positive and listen to your child. Do not dismiss their concerns or encourage them to sort it out themselves.”

Dagmara’s second piece of advice is to talk to the school.

“You are not alone in this issue; the school doesn’t want your child to feel ostracised or uncomfortable. Find out what supports are in place and how they can assist your child in the school domain.”

Ensuring that the child has a confidant at school and encouraging them to report incidents and understand that it is OK to do so, can also help inspire security.

“Parents must explain to their children that bullying is not their fault.”

According to Dagmara confidence is key, as body language can speak volumes. “Parents can work out strategies with their children, such as appearing confident even if they feel insecure on the inside.” Just practicing saying No firmly can create confidence as well as acting unimpressed or unaffected.

“Don’t let bullying dominate your child’s life, focus on developing new skills and encourage healthy outlets outside of school where they can form meaningful bonds and develop new skills.”

Relationships Australia NT offers individual, couple and family counselling, relationship education and skill-building courses including Parenting courses. For more information please call us on (08) 8923 4999.






The Importance of Gratitidue – Nov 28th 2017

As the countdown to Christmas begins, this time of year can change very quickly from a time of giving, sharing, reflecting and gratitude, to a rushed and stressful time where its easy to forget the importance of well-being.

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Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami conducted a research project in 2003, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, where the effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. The results suggested that a conscious focus on counting one’s blessings can have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The results suggested that a conscious focus on counting one’s blessings can have emotional

Keeping a gratitude journal can be an effective way of enhancing positive thought and wellbeing. Recording weekly entries can help you to pay attention to the good things in life and brings to the fore the stuff you might take for granted. Emmons & McCullough’s research revealed that those who kept gratitude journals reported fewer negative physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week, in comparison with people who wrote about their stresses or generic life events.

When keeping a gratitude journal, it’s important to read back over those entries to remind yourself of the good in your days and what you have to look forward to. Try to record moments that were surprising or unexpected to savour that surprise. Record the positive remarks people say about you. When you’re feeling unappreciated or undervalued by yourself or those around you, those records will remind you that you are valued, appreciated and important. Emmons & McCullough’s research revealed that participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to achieve or make progress toward their personal goals, be they academic, interpersonal or health-based.


Continuing practice of maintaining gratitude for happy thoughts, moments, feedback, goals and possessions can enhance well being and allow for positive thoughts making positive lives, particularly in this busy festive season.

If you are interested in learning more about how to increase your well being and implement positive reflection in your life, we can help. Get in touch with us on (08) 8923 4999 to make an appointment.

A small difference can make a big difference when trying to reduce stress – 8th September 2017

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Victor E. Frankl.

A great quote from an incredible existential psychotherapist/ author on reducing stress by widening the space space between stimulus and response.

When you say ‘I am stressed’ – you are identifying all of you with being stressed. When you say ‘I’m noticing that I am feeling stressed’ – you are noticing a current state rather than your identity.

This small difference can help to widen the space between the impact and how we choose to respond.


Steps to ease stress – September 2017

When clients ask about what steps they can take to ease stress, we tell them that it’s as easy as ABC…

  1. Adjust your daily routine
  2. Be Kind
  3. Connect

Adjust your daily routine

Plan your day to ease the chaos by knowing when you are most productive and least productive. Write down your basic daily tasks and then map your daily schedule to match your energy levels.

For example, arrange your most challenging tasks to be done with your morning coffee and your easier, mindless tasks for later in the afternoon when you feel like you could do with a nap.


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Be Kind

Even when we are feeling irritable – if we can treat ourselves and others with kindness rather than judgement and criticism – and transform how we feel.

We can then put our experiences in perspective rather than letting them overwhelm us.   When we are having a bad day we orientate towards the negative and forget the good – this negative bias can be reversed but this requires practice.  Each of us has good qualities and remembering these qualities can improve our relationships and remind us what we liked about ourselves and others.



Take a moment during the day to notice your landscape –

  • look out the window
  • walk barefoot on grass
  • close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you
  • go for a walk and take up to see and hear your surroundings

Connecting to others also helps us to ease stress.  This could be simply to spend time with your colleagues to ask them how they are, to share lunch with someone who is important to you, to share a joke together. Sometimes we also need to connect with others who can support us with our stressors of work and life.

All Northern Territory Government employees and their families are eligible for  Employee Assistance Program counselling sessions to assist with work and life issues.  These include but not limited to:

  • stress and anxiety
  • workplace relationships
  • conflict and harassment
  • work life balance
  • couple, family and parenting issues

Relationships Australia NT work with individuals, couples, children and families.  Please note – all individuals are eligible for 3 counselling sessions; couples –are eligible for 6 counselling sessions.

All our counsellors are suitably trained and qualified from our Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs office – via face-to-face and electronic devices (audio and visual).

We are able to provide an appointment within 5 working days.

Facing Father’s Day as a separated parent – 1st September 2017

Some Thoughts for Separated Dads on Father’s Day.

Regardless of your individual circumstances, significant days such as Father’s Day can be difficult for separated dads.  Our feelings and reactions as a dad who may not see his children, or who may have to share the care of his children with their mother, on Father’s Day can quickly become negative if we let them.  A little preparation prior to Father’s Day can make a big difference in helping separated dads not only get through the day but in enjoying it as well.

So, depending on your circumstances this Father’s Day, here are a few tips in helping to plan for the day.


For those dads who may not be able to see their kids on Father’s Day you may consider the following:

  • Prepare yourself mentally – a major part of being without your kids on Father’s Day and getting through it has to do with preparation.  As far as you can, predict what thoughts and feelings you may have on Father’s Day and prepare an ‘escape route’ if that is useful.  This can take the form of planning to be busy with enjoyable activities on the day – think about engaging distracting activities you could plan and fill your day with those.
  • If possible plan to telephone or Skype your kids and plan this with the kids beforehand so they are prepared.  Depending on ages of your kids and their interests there are a range of activities and games that can be shared over Skype and similar technologies.  Again, depending on their ages, you may plan a story to tell them or prepare a list of things to talk about – they will appreciate your special interest in them and what’s happening in their lives.
  • Write a special Father’s Day letter or email to your kids. Tell them how much you love them and about your best memories with them. Talk about your hopes for the future for them and how committed you are to your relationship with them.  Even though you can’t be together, you can still share your feelings with them.  If you have more than one child write to each individually so that they can feel special.

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 If you will see your kids part of the day the following may help:

  • Have a plan for the day – plan for the time with the kids as well as for the time without them.  For the time with the kids, plan activities that will allow you maximum interaction to make the most of any limited time you have: don’t just sit down in front of the tv or go to a movie.  For that part of the day when you are not with the kids, plan some things to do on your own that are enjoyable and distracting.

Whatever your situation if you are a separated father on Father’s Day, it can take an emotional and mental toll so remember:

  • Plan ahead – this is by far the most important thing a dad can do to make sure you get the most of your time with the kids.  Alternately, planning the day if you won’t be seeing your kids will give you some strategies to ‘get through it’ in good shape.
  • Use technology where you can to help you have contact with your kids on Father’s Day and other days as well.

And don’t forget to:

  • Listen to your self-talk – be alert to signs of self-pity or hopelessness and be prepared to act on these signals to change the self-talk
  • Be prepared to talk to others about your concerns, including speaking with a professional (counsellor or psychologist) if you feel that would be of benefit
  • Be clear about where you have choices and where you don’t, and don’t get stuck ruminating over things you can’t change
  • Commit to looking after yourself – both on Father’s Day and for the longer-term
  • Think about getting fit – being physically fit can really help how we think and feel about things
  • Go easy on the alcohol and/or drugs – they are not the answer
  • Eat well – maintaining a healthy diet benefits us both physically and mentally
  • And remember to speak with your GP if you have concerns about your physical or mental health

Our Languages Matter – Staff NAIDOC Exhibition in Darwin 7th July 2017

On Friday 7th July 2017, Relationships Australia Northern Territory Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Cultural Advisers (AICAs) – Kathy, Eddie, Valarie, Jeff & Ruth – created an exhibition entitled Our Languages Matter for Darwin staff in the Barramundi Room to mark NAIDOC week.

This exhibition allowed the AICAs to share different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and music, as well as their culture with staff members.


Our Languages Matter featured Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island artefacts including baskets woven from Pandanus from Arnhem land.

These baskets are made when young pandanus leaves are harvested and sliced into fine strips. This is followed by a colouring process, in which the strips are placed in drums of bush dyes, roots and leaves from different plants sourced in the area. Dye is extracted through bashing and crushing techniques, and then added to the water with the pandanus to create vivid colour. After dying, the strips must hang and dried out for at least three to four hours before preparing it to start the weaving process.  These strips are then woven into intricate baskets and mats or rolled into ropes for other designs.

Dilli bags are prepared slightly differently however.  Vines from Banyan trees are gathered and rolled into long thin threads and woven to make the bags. These bags would have been used to carry items for everyday use or for long journeys depending on the size. Sometimes the same colouring as baskets is used.


Coral and turtles, which represented Torres Strait culture, were also featured. The Torres Strait Islands have the world’s largest population of green, hawksbill and flatback turtles.


Murray Island is a small island, to the east of the Torres Strait, just north of the Great Barrier Reef and is where Eddie Mabo was born.

The contribution of Eddie Mabo in campaigning for Indigenous land rights and for his role in a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia which overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) which characterised Australian law with regard to land and title was also recognised.


The exhibition also featured information about The Barunga Statement. This statement of national Aboriginal political objectives issued to the federal government in June 1988. Written on bark and presented to Prime Minister RJL Hawke at that year’s Barunga festival, it called for Aboriginal self-management, a national system of land rights, compensation for loss of lands, respect for Aboriginal identity, an end to discrimination, and the granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights.


Another display featured spears from the Tiwi Islands. These spears were designed for close combat and would be thrusted into the enemy and this twisted and pulled out. Female spears are smooth on one side and serrated on the other. The male spears are serrated on both sides. Thankfully, these days, the spears are used for art.


Relationships Australia NT staff who visited the exhibition heard a mix of both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal music.

The exhibition also featured a collection of books including Stan Grant’s book, Talking to my Country, a powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.  Another book on display was Why Warriors Lie Down and Die. This book gives readers an understanding of why the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land face the greatest crisis in health and education since European contact.

A book on the history of the Kahlin Compound in Darwin and the experiences of the children who grew up there was also on display


Feedback from the staff was overwhelmingly positive with the majority of visitors saying how much they enjoyed it and how sorry they were that the exhibition was on display for such a short time.


9th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations – Feb 13th 2017

A genetic study has found that Australia has the oldest living culture in the world passed down from generation to generation for the past 40,000, confirming they may have the oldest continuous culture on the planet.

By 1911, every mainland State and Territory had introduced protection policies that subjected Indigenous people to near-total control and denied them basic human rights such as freedom of movement and labour, custody of their children, and control over their personal property.

Between 1910 and 1970 many children were forcibly taken from their families when the Australian Government initiated the removal of Aboriginal children under these protection policies. These children were taught to reject their heritage and forced to adopt the non-indigenous culture. Their names were changed and they were forbidden to speak their traditional language.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Rhonda Randall and Sharon Mumbler stand proud with their "Sorry" scarf as Kevin Rudd's Broadcast apology to Aboriginal Peoples of Australia at Penrith Council on February 13, 2008 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by David Hill/Newspix/Getty Images)

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 13: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Rhonda Randall and Sharon Mumbler stand proud with their “Sorry” scarf as Kevin Rudd’s Broadcast apology to Aboriginal Peoples of Australia at Penrith Council on February 13, 2008 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by David Hill/Newspix/Getty Images)

Almost every Aboriginal family has been affected by the forcible removal of one or more children across generations. For many Aboriginal people; their family and community are still coming to terms with the trauma which has caused suffering, loss and heartache.

On the 13th February 2008, Australia’s then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tabled a motion in parliament to apologise to the Indigenous people of Australia and in particular to the Stolen Generations for these laws and policies.


The apology included a proposal of “closing the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians over a range of issues including life expectancy, education and economic opportunities.

“We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendant and for their families left behind”

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Does the brain hold the key to violence prevention? A reflection for White Ribbon Day by Lucy Van Sambeek. 25th November 2016

White Ribbon Day is all about the prevention of men’s violence against women. Men are key to this prevention project. I see men standing up to say enough is enough. I see men linking arms in solidarity. And I hear of men starting to question the actions of others which denigrate women in public. This is fantastic and necessary. Men must be part of the solution. But the reality is that there are still women and children being exposed to violence at this very moment.
I dream for the day there is no violence. But in the meantime what can we do to prevent the cycle of violence being passed on to the next generation?

If we are talking about real prevention then it begins in conception. It begins in the first 1000 days of the child’s life when the brain is establishing the pathways of connection for life. This is the most critical time in development when a baby growing up in a nurturing, caring, responsive relationship is creating the hardware for a healthy, stable and secure life. It is also the same critical time that a child in a violent family with unsafe or unreliable relationships comes to know what it is like to live with toxic stress.

White Ribbon hand

Science now confirms that events and experiences in the first 3 years is a reliable predictor of the child’s future. Exposure to violence in early childhood increases the risks of the child later dropping out of school, going to jail, turning to alcohol or drugs and even killing themselves.
There is a lot on the line. And to think if we could just keep children safe from violence, they might have the best possible chance of growing up into strong and healthy adults?

This is precisely the kind of work that the Healing Our Children project aims to do. Over the past 16 months HOC has been working on the Tiwi Islands working with groups of women who are pregnant or care for children, who have been exposed to or at risk of witnessing violence. Our group program aims to invite women into a safe and non-shaming conversation about the effects of trauma on children, think about ways they can actively protect children if violent conflict was to occur and explore healing ways to promote recovery, from a neurological and relationship perspective.

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It is inside the human brain that the best prevention work can be done and where sometimes irreversible damage can be prevented.

By all means, let’s support and encourage men to continue speaking out about violence against women. Meanwhile, let’s also think of the children. We can stop the cycle by protecting our unborn children and babies from ever knowing what it’s like to feel toxic stress from violence.

For more information about Healing Our Children go to

Thoughts on making your children’s needs a priority – September 2016

A concern that often raises its head above others is when parents, step-parents and de facto partners don’t make the needs of their own children, and the children in the new relationship, a priority. The resulting emotional and physical neglect impacts severely on the child’s ability to build a true sense of identity.

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With the high incidence of separation and engagement in new relationships, the new partners often make each other and their new relationship a priority rather than prioritising the needs of the children. Often the complexity of the changing relationships and roles results in emotional confusion for the children involved and these internal conflicts often manifest as behavioural issues.

blog about kids needs

In our work we often observe the following:

  • A new partner competing with the children for attention.
  • Conflict in the new relationship because of the focus by one parent on the needs of the children
  • Financial conflict because of the financial obligations to children of previous relationships
  • Conflict with former partners because of engagement in a new relationship.
  • Children being used by both the separated parties and the new partner as a way to manipulate each other.
  • An ongoing conflict between the separated parents where the children are used as an excuse to punish each other.
  • One parent using any excuse to make the other party’s parenting style appear wrong whilst looking to gain a custodial advantage over that parent.

Some of the needs to focus on to support children to build a healthy sense of who they are:-

  •  Safety: Both a physical and emotional.
  • Learning support: To build the ability to engage in learning.
  • Trusting relationships: Love and connection that is emotionally safe.
  • Predictability: Patterns and routines that are stable and predictable where transitions         are well  managed.

Each child is a unique and valuable developing human being. You teach them their worth in the mirror of your relationship with them. They deserve the best.

Are you doing that?

Family Relationship Centre marks 10 years in the NT

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A mediation service designed to assist families going through separation has marked ten years in the Northern Territory. Set up as one of the first fifteen Family Relationship Centres in Australia, the Darwin-based service has been run by Relationships Australia NT since it was established by the Australian Government following changes in the Family Law Act in 2006.

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These changes meant that from July 2007 onwards, family dispute resolution was compulsory in all suitable cases prior to applying to the courts for orders. The development of engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients has been extremely important and Northern Territory staff have lead the way with research and modelling for best practice in mediation with Aboriginal families. Relationships Australia marked the tenth anniversary of the Darwin Family Relationship centre with a special lunch on Monday 29th August, featuring guest presenter acclaimed clinical child psychologist, family therapist and research consultant Professor Jennifer McIntosh.

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Professor McIntosh outlined the latest research on divorce and its impact on children in her presentation ‘Children’s Outcomes in conflicted Family Separation and Pathways of Prevention: the Current Evidence’ This presentation outlined current research on the complex relationships between divorce and conflict exposures in childhood, and life-course outcomes, and emphasised the place for timely intervention in supporting parental focus and responsive co-parenting through child inclusive practice.

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Professor McIntosh also held a one day Young Children in Divorce & Separation workshop with child-inclusive teams from Relationships Australia NT and Anglicare Resolve. This program, developed by Professor McIntosh and Children Beyond Dispute, provides information about early development and targets the important developmental considerations for separated parents. It also provides insights into the complexities for children of living in family conflict and separation, the range of challenges these children carry with them into the learning environment and opportunities for parents in accompanying the child through the separation journey.

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