Reconnecting Families & Family Therapy Communities

October 27-29,2023

This article is a piece of creative writing and is the authors personal representational experience of the Asian Academy of Family Therapy 8th Annual Conference Hong Kong, China October 2023.

Hong Kong, a British colony from 1842 to 1 July 1997 is today a vibrant metropolis with a rich cultural tapestry where East meets West. Born to an English father and Anglo-Burmese Mother; living in Kuala Lumper, Britain and finally Australia, I am comfortable in both Eastern and Western Cultures.

Lost and Found in Hong Kong

As clinical Family Therapists we know that our clients’ have a story and history to tell. I too have a story I wish to tell.
As soon as I arrived, I arranged to visit the Asian Academy headquarters in Pottinger Street (its’ English name). Given instructions to keep walking down and being full of confidence but still jetlag from the flight, I got lost. I had no internet roaming, no Google maps. I became disorientated, bewildered, confused, helpless.

On accepting defeat, I suddenly found this little door with the name Asian Academy of Family Therapy. The air-conditioning provided instant relief. I met with Wai -Yung Lee, founder of the Asian Family Therapy Network and the Conference committee. Wai-Yung’s serenity, graciousness and hospitality in providing me with cool refreshment, listened kindly while I babbled about being lost. Provided with an escort to locate the Central escalator in Hong Kong CBD, Wai-Yung encouraged me to enjoy standing, observing the scenes as they went by. Grateful for this interlude, I left returning to a state of equilibrium. This hospitality and commitment to hard work was the tone of the Conference Committee to ensure the 8th Conference of the Asian Academy of Family Therapy was a success.

On Day One it was good to see familiar faces of Australian family therapists from ‘home” – Jason Lim, from Perth and David Hong from Sydney to mention a few. Prof Maurizio Andolfi, who gave the opening address with Wai Yung Lee, both focusing on the child in the family.

As the Australian Representative for the Australian Association of Family Therapy, I attended the World Network Meeting, hosted by Takeshi Tamura, President of the Asian Academy of Family Therapy. This included the American Association of Martial and Family therapy; American Family Therapy; European Family Therapy Association and Journal representations from the UK, America and Jay Lebow (Family Process). Each presented their Associations Vision and Values of Systemic/Family Therapy. Jay Lebow, well known for his articles on Integrative Family Therapy was inclusive and embracing of the new Models of Family Therapy; Attachment Family Therapy; Functional Family Therapy; Mental Based Family Therapy and Dialogical.

Some highlights from the Conference

Chih-Hsien Yang – Life Triangulation Transformation Experiential Workshop based on Virginia Satir’s work at the end of the 3 days was very refreshing. It was relational building with Workshop participant’s being interactive, experiential and humourous as we navigated the interpretation of the exercises from Chinese to English.
The Buddhist Tea Meditation Closing Ceremony was a delightful ending to a full and rich presentation of Papers over the 3 days; giving time to reflect on inner processes and to a state of peace and calm.

Future – More East meets West

My first encounter with the Asian Academy of Family Therapy (AAFT) Conference was the 4th Conference in Tsukuba, Japan, 2017. At the opening, Wai Yung Lee facilitated a tribute and celebration of Salvador Minucin and his work as he had passed away on 30th October 2017.
Since then, I attended and presented at the 6th Annual AAFT Conference on Batam Island, Indonesia, 2019 and recently in Hong Kong, 2023.As the newly elected President of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, February 2024, I will be attending the 9th Conference in Shanghai, China in October this year.

The Asian and the Australian Associations have had initial discussions of the idea of a “Double AAFT” (both Associations have the same acronym). A Conference where the two Associations collaborate to have enriched multicultural sharing of knowledge, continued relationship building between the many countries of Asia, with the ever-growing multiculturalism of Australia.
Australia is enriched by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the oldest surviving culture on the planet, and the millions of people who have chosen to make a new life here. The data from the 2021 Australian Census shows that 29.3% of all Australians were born overseas while more than half (51.5%) of the population have a parent born overseas. Western Australia has had the highest proportion of overseas born over the past 50 years. While the state only contained 10.5% of Australia’s population in 2021, it had high shares of the population who were born in various countries.

According to the Asian Academy of Family Therapy website, more than 140 participants from over 17 countries participated in the AAFT 4th Annual Conference. There are many family therapist trainers from Australia have provided training in Asia, one of the most well known Internationally is Prof Maurizio Andolfi. The current President of the Asian Academy of family therapy, Takeshi Tamura has participated as a presenter at Australian Conferences and facilitated workshops in Perth, Western Australia.

A joint Conference of the two Associations would enable participants to present their research work, exchange ideas, compare points of view, develop collaborations and continued relationship building between the Associations.

In the words of the current President of the Asian Academy of Family Therapy, Takeshi Tamura “ Cross-cultural encounters broaden our perspectives. Examining different values provides the opportunity to reflect on our own values. We can shift our perspective from ethnocentrism to multiculturalism.” (Takeshi Tamura, 2021, Editorial ANZJFT, 42, 363–366)

“Despite their different world views and distinct ways of manifestation, the East and the West are constantly in the process of mutual exchange and interactions. It is expected that the different cultures and philosophical ideas will continue to mix and match in various forms, giving new shape to couple and family therapy interventions worldwide.” ( Wai-Yung Lee Fam Process. 2020 Sep; 59(3)).

As a young adult when confused about my cultural identity and Where Do I come from; my late father would respond with the words from the Desiderata poem “You are a Child of the Universe….”

Anne Holloway | President
Australian Association of Family Therapy