Peter Gigante

Biography

I trained in shiatsu therapy before pursuing studies in Chinese Medicine in Australia and China including a 4 year apprenticeship and clinical training at Xiyuan hospital Beijing. I am a registered Chinese Medicine practitioner and has been in private practice for over 28 years, I have a special interest in children's health, and have conducted many workshops and lectures on paediatrics. I use the physical medium of tactile therapy based on paediatric Tui Na and shiatsu, as the basis of my treatment work as well as TCM Othopaedics and traumatology in the treatment of children with disabilities and special needs. I also incorporate acupuncture, and use Chinese Herbal Medicine extensively. I care deeply about providing a positive contribution to his patients' present and future health. I lecture annually at RMIT Chinese Medicine program teaching Clinical Paediatrics and have taught around Australia and internationally. I am committed to promoting Chinese Medicine for children and to developing the knowledge, skills and other attributes of practitioners wishing to enhance this area of practice and to conversation about children, health and Chinese medicine. I have been involved in development of professional practice standards, education and regulation since the early years of my practice, developed the first set of Nationally endorsed Competency standards for shiatsu therapy, now a national model for Complementary health care, served on the first statutory regulation Authority for Chinese Medicine in the state of Victoria from 2005 to 2012, and was appointed Chair of the National Registration Committee for the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia in 2011. I continue to serve the Board as Deputy Chair of Registration and Notifications I live in regional Victoria on a forested property where I enjoy a physical life of natural living, cultivation of vegetables and fruits, Chinese herbs, and landscape, keep horses, geese and chickens, and maintain a practice both on my property and in inner Melbourne where my practice is in high demand.

Interview 2015

On your paediatric practice:

Why paediatrics? What got you started?

I developed my interest in paediatrics simultaneously with studying Chinese medicine, having become a single parent of an infant 30 years ago just prior to commencing my studies. My own childhood was not a happy one, with parents from very different cultures, many competing siblings and very limited resources, I was thrust into adulthood ill prepared and somewhat wounded from my early childhood experiences. Fortunately I was given robust genes and a determined temperament, and my daughter inspired me to become a dedicated parent and surround myself with others who could guide me, including a long period of paid and unpaid involvement at a child care centre. Once I qualified, I wanted to apply these experiences to my chosen career, but soon realised that parents needed more confidence and trust in the practitioner’s knowledge and skills in treating children than for treating adults before they would commit their child’s care to an alternative health practitioner. As soon as I heard of a weekend seminar on paediatric treatment by Li Kai Zhu, I had to attend. What I learnt then more than anything else was that there was a rich tradition and specialty in Chinese Medicine worth a lifetime of study and practice. So at every opportunity I jumped, and followed this with a year of study under Professor Wang Zhao pu who was brought to Australia to teach and to treat children with cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. This gave me an opportunity to see many children, observe their health and behaviour and family dynamics, and apply treatment with them and their siblings.

What is the distinctive role TCM can play in children’s health?

I learnt that TCM can play a profound role in the developing lives of children, preventing compounding problems from early illness, correcting the course of the burden of treatment with harmful medicinals, reduce the course of prolonged illness, and benefit the spirit of the child and the family. Perhaps most significantly in this highly medicalised world, Chinese medicine paediatrics pays special attention to health promotion, and the results of this can be easily recognised for even the most complicated presentations.

What do you like about working with children, and what are the challenges?

I love working with children because they respond naturally to connection with the heart with less defences, and those they have can be overcome by being present to them. Even when a child is resistant, a child can be reached through their own somatic experience, so the tactile methods I use are imperative to my treatments, even when herbal or acupuncture therapy is necessary. In an age where physical contact with children is increasingly circumscribed by fears of violation, it is one of the remaining legitimate avenues for children to experience and develop a more sophisticated language of touch. However, since children are minors, informed consent must come from parents who are frequently wary, and as a male practitioner I must be conscious of my conduct through their eyes at all times. This can be at cross-purposes with being fully present at times, with complete and focussed attention on the child’s responses, especially with difficult or challenging behaviours. On the other hand, children generally respond rapidly and powerfully to treatment, and therapeutic principles are usually simpler to formulate and execute. Consequently, the trust invested by parents in these circumstances is a potent and humbling honour.

Any tips for students on how to read the classics and how to tie them in with clinical practice?

Sun Si Miao’s urgent advice in “Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold” to study the classics deeply and continuously remains imperative today as we are exposed to modern, integrated western and Chinese medicine, the TCM of modern China, and the great mix of health and wellness ideas of our own and other cultures. The classics aren’t merely fundamentalist texts or novel historical artefacts but a foundation ground from and upon which all Chinese medicine grows; as practitioners we are sustained by it through contemplation, discovery, exploration and study throughout our practicing life. We need to find our own entry into this subsoil, its layers continuously explored through the texts, through observation of nature, through our inner cultivation, through clinical application and through the interpretations of others who have come before and who travel with us.