How we create safe and brave spaces at TACSI

Some of the TACSI team share their thoughts on how they go about facilitating spaces that encourage people to share their experiences and create change.

1 September 2020

By the TACSI team

Creating safe and brave spaces for conversation, innovation and learning is critical to the work we do at TACSI.

There’s a need to create spaces for internal teams, and also a need to create safe and brave spaces to work with people with lived experiences, and with partners and clients to acknowledge power, vulnerability and each other.

Below, some of the TACSI team have shared their thoughts on how they create safe and brave spaces to share experiences and create change. At the end of the article, you’ll find some resources that have helped us learn and improve. We acknowledge we still have much to learn and prioritise this work.


Meet Aunty Vickey Charles and Alazne Alberdi Alvaro

Aunty Vickey Charles

Aunty Vickey is an Alawa/Mara woman from the NT who grew up largely in Adelaide. As Aunty in Residence, she is incredibly warm, inclusive and instantly creates spaces of welcome for those she works with. She gives wonderful hugs and is a masterful storyteller.

Alazne Alberdi Alvaro

Alazne Alberdi Alvaro is an industrial engineer and academic by training, and hails from the Basque Country. She is passionate about social justice and creating space for everyone’s voice. She has been a keen student of Aunty Vickey’s and has learnt a huge amount from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities she’s worked alongside.

Here are Aunty Vickey and Alazne’s tips for creating safe and brave spaces when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples:

  • Have and display Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags

  • Use yarning circle mats for discussions (such as these

  • Have and refer to your organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) statement (see TACSI’s RAP here)

  • Have and display the Indigenous Map of Australia 

  • Always acknowledge the lands that we meet on 

  • Have more than one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in the room. It’s very challenging to raise your voice when you are the only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in the room.

Aunty Vickey and Alazne would like to state that this knowledge has been heard and learnt in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities we have worked with.


Meet Lucy Fraser

Lucy Fraser

Lucy is an industrial designer and a passionate advocate with a sharp mind. She brings care, precision and thoughtfulness to all spaces she works in at TACSI. Lucy has recently been working closely with the South Sudanese Australian community in Melbourne around improving young people’s mental health.


Here are Lucy’s reflections of creating safe and brave spaces with young people:

  • It’s critical for the people holding the power in a session to do their homework beforehand to understand a bit about the general experiences of people they might meet, and how their own experience might differ

  • You need a commitment from the facilitators to speak up when things get unsafe, and not to leave people to stand up for themselves

  • Prioritise people and relationships over the agenda

  • Where possible, have relationships and involvement over an entire project or until a goal is achieved

  • Give people choice and control as much as possible – ask them what makes them feel safe – where they want to meet, who they want there, what else might support a good experience

  • Let people know when there might be an element of unsafety, or when they might be asked to be uncomfortable. For example, if they’re the only Black person/women/young person in the session, if the meeting is at a church/clinic/office, if there are others with a lived experience of Domestic Violence, give them the choice to opt in or out once they know the situation.


Meet Barbara Binns

Barbara Binns

Barbara is a grandmother, mother and a primary school teacher by training, and one of the most compassionate people you’ll ever meet. She works with great empathy, persistence and positivity. At TACSI, Barbara leads the implementation and spread of Weavers, our peer-designed model designed to support carers’ wellbeing.


Barb asked to share this invitation that inspires her when creating safe and brave spaces:

Invitation to Brave Space - by Micky Scottbey Jones

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side.


Meet Danielle Abbott

Danielle Abbott

Dani is an advocate for the voices of young people and families. She has a deep and intuitive sense of how to make spaces safe and meaningful, and is also full of care, respect and laughter. She leads the growth of TACSI’s Family by Family program.


Here are Dani’s thoughts on creating safe and brave spaces with families:

  • Vulnerability is key. Use this to balance the power dynamics that are unspoken between people and professionals

  • Deep listening coupled with action based empathy

  • Let people know when you feel what they’re saying could leave them vulnerable (we don’t need to hear everything)

  • Physical environments matter for cultural safety, emotional and psychological safety. Be mindful of where you meet and take care with the physical space you’re creating.

Resources we’re learning from

  1. Deep Collaboration, a resource created by First Peoples and other multicultural Australians about finding new ways to work and lead together. 

  2. The concept of a ‘shame mat’ at the doorway to a meeting so people are encouraged to leave their shame behind. This concept was developed by Aunty Dolly Hankin and Aunty Kerry Major. Read more here

  3. The article Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces and Student Appreciation of Other World Views by Kevin Singer 

  4. Watch Episode 6 of the Our Town video series with Aunty Vickey from TACSI talking about cultural awareness and creating safe spaces with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people. (embedded below) 

  5. Listen to Karen McColl, Adviser to the Office of the Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention speak with Kerry Jones, Director Strategic Initiatives (TACSI) for Our Town about safe use of language in conversations about mental health. (embedded below)

Our Town video series, Episode 6 Partnering with Aboriginal communities
Our Town video series, Episode 6 Partnering with Aboriginal communities
Our Town about safe use of language in conversations about mental health
Our Town about safe use of language in conversations about mental health
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