The Tree of Me: Enhancing Aboriginal Cultural and Genealogical Engagement Through Technology

Jeffrey Pfeifer

Swinburne University
Associate Professor

Jeffrey Pfeifer, Ph.D., M.Leg.St. – is an Associate Professor with the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Swinburne University and sits on the Executive Board of the International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology (IACFP). He has been teaching and researching in the areas of forensic and correctional psychology for over 20 years and has published numerous articles as well as testified as an expert witness in both Canada and the United States. Professor Pfeifer’s research has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada and Appellate Courts in Ontario and British Columbia. He is the recipient of the 2004 (Evaluation of Canadian Healing Lodges) and 2017 (Research in Technology & Corrections) International Corrections and Prisons Association Research Awards. Most recently Professor Pfeifer has been conducting a program of research on the use of technology and gaming as a platform for positively impacting the wellbeing of prison officers as well as offenders. He has conducted evaluations and training workshops for numerous agencies including: Corrections Victoria, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Western Australia Department of Corrections, Russian Ministry of Corrections, Namibian Correctional Service, Anti-Corruption Commission of Zambia, and the Durban (South Africa) Police Service.

This paper presents an overview of the development and implementation of the “Tree of Me” initiative aimed at encouraging the engagement of Aboriginal people in the justice system to gain an enhanced understanding of cultural and genealogical knowledge through an interactive digital experience. Research with Aboriginal people from a number of countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US) indicates that an understanding of genealogical and other influences plays an important role in one’s cultural understanding, self-esteem and self-worth. A number of recent studies have also begun to identify the importance of delivering justice programs and initiatives through an interactive digital experience in order to increase the engagement and impact on participants. The “Tree of Me” program was designed as a response to the confluence of this research. The program allows participants to engage in a self-paced and self-directed journey of discovery with regard to gaining a better understanding of who they are through an identification of the people who have influenced them in a positive way. This presentation will also discuss the implementation of this program within the justice system and provide some preliminary results with regard to participant perceptions of the program as well as impact on a variety of issues such as self-esteem, cultural knowledge and engagement.