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Realising trauma-informed care through matcha and chado

Staff member Kim hosting a Japanese tea ceremony

17 March 2020

By Kim Lee, Project Officer Research and Evaluation

Before the coronavirus pandemic, in a vegetable garden that has been lovingly cultivated by residents of Sacred Heart Mission’s Rooming House Plus Program (RHPP), I hosted a Japanese tea event that brought residents and staff together, providing a space for an open and friendly connection.

The hot bowls of tea were accompanied by conversations about Japan, culture, food, history and tea, many of which were new topics to the residents, and all were open and eager to learn.

A Japanese tea ceremony is a traditional aesthetic art that originated in the 1500s, known as Chado or ‘Way of Tea’ and embodies the ethos of harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity. All of these characteristics were evident at the table, brought to life through action, and it was through this tea event and reflecting on the ethos of the day that I came to understand what trauma-informed care really means.

There was harmony in our vegetable garden, which the residents had cultivated themselves and felt comfortable within, and the conversation was friendly and respectful. A former chef spoke about Japanese food and explained the process of making powdered wasabi. Another was interested in meditation, speaking of Zen Buddhism and the different meditation practices of different religions and cultures.

A former martial artist was explaining the difference between kendo and kempo, the originator of judo and the different levels one must surpass to reach black belt. These are just a handful of examples. There was a cyclical purity at the end of the event, where unfinished tea is poured onto the herb garden, helping to sustain new growth and the space provided a tranquility for some to sit and listen quietly to the conversations while enjoying the company and environment.

People were also curious about my interest in Japan and tea. They keenly listened as I explained about the health benefits of matcha and were courageous enough to try the green frothy substance. Some likened the taste to lentil soup, given its earthiness.

Understanding trauma-informed care

I work within People and Strategy at Sacred Heart Mission, and most of my work is in the office with no client interaction. Although I have done great in-house training on trauma-informed care and homelessness, my disconnection to the coal face limited my understanding and its application.

People come from all different backgrounds and due to certain circumstances, they have fallen into a situation such as homelessness, mental health and AOD use.

However personal circumstances do not dictate who you are as a person. And we should not assume or judge someone’s personal qualities based on their circumstances.

The power of sharing a bowl of tea can be quite profound.

It can foster connection, bring everyone to the table on even ground, and build mutual respect and understanding towards each other, and in a sense, these are the true underpinnings of trauma-informed care.

Find out more about trauma-informed care

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.


Sacred Heart Mission believes that the diversity of abilities, genders, sexualities, relationship identities, bodies and cultures in our community enriches us all and should be celebrated. Everyone is welcome at our table.