Emerging Minds
1hr 30mins

Rebuilding our shields: Sharing the stories of deadly dads

About the course

This course is designed to break down dominant stereotypes and help you better understand the critical role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers have in supporting children to grow up healthy, strong and thriving. By listening to and gathering stories of First Nations men, you create opportunities to share the rich narratives of their strengths and resilience. Learning about the valuable knowledge of the dads featured in Rebuilding our shields and the hopes that they have for their children will develop your understanding and connection points when supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers.  


We want to teach our kids to dream, not just survive.
Aboriginal father


The 43-minute documentary in this course will provide an opportunity for practitioners to hear first-hand from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers so that they may best consider fathers’ hopes in their family engagements. This starts with acknowledging and valuing the vital role that First Nations men hold in the healthy development of their children and families.1

Content warning

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this course may contain images or names of people who have passed away.

Who is this course for?

This course has been developed for non-Indigenous practitioners who support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, children and families.


It is estimated that this course will take you between approximately one and one-and-a-half hours to complete, including watching the documentary and completing the reflections.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.

Learning aims/outcomes

  • Provide an understanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers play a central role in the lives of children growing up strong.
  • Dispel myths and the narrative of deficit discourse regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers.
  • Provide practitioners with strategies and knowledge to support their engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.

Some essential tools for putting in place strategies for self-care include:

  • being prepared – thinking through the ‘what-ifs’ step by step
  • understanding personal signs of being overwhelmed
  • setting prompts that will notify you that you need to pull back
  • pre-determining how you will pull back, and how you know you will be okay to re-engage
  • linking into peer supports
  • engaging in, and prescheduling, regular stress-reduction activities
  • seeking opportunities to reflect on your experiences with your professional colleagues.

You can begin the process of self-care as you work through the course by being aware of your emotional responses.

If you find you are struggling please seek help or call:


The preferred terminology used by Emerging Minds in our resources is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, as guided by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Consultancy Group.

For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.2

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.3

‘Social and emotional wellbeing’ is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4


All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources developed by Emerging Minds aim to ‘decentre’ the expert. With this fundamental value in mind, and with guidance from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Consultancy Group, this course will not provide you with a certificate. The reasoning behind this is:

  • Cultural competency trainings should be provided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations.
  • Emerging Minds does not endorse this resource being used to meet cultural training requirements.
  • Engaging with, and valuing, local knowledge and connections is the core principle for any work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and therefore takes precedence over a centralised training course.


The documentary Rebuilding our shields: Sharing the stories of deadly dads was co-designed with Harley Hall of Aboriginal Art Designs and Darwin Indigenous Men’s Services (DIMS) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation, and the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have shared their stories so generously. We thank them, and encourage you to listen deeply to these stories to understand the impact colonisation has had on the roles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers.

Aboriginal Art Designs
Darwin Indigenous Men's Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Canuto, K., Towers, K., Riessen, J., Perry, J., Bond, S., Ah Chee, D., Brown, A. (2019). “Anybody can make kids; it takes a real man to look after your kids”: Aboriginal men’s discourse on parenting. PLoS ONE, 14(11), e0225395.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: Development of a children’s headline indicator (Cat. no. PHE 158). Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing 2017–2023 (p. 6). Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children 2009 (Cat. no. PHE 112). Canberra: AIHW.

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