Healing

Healing

The most recent posts in this section are at the top of this page. However, I developed this Healing section in order to take people on a journey into the fascinating field relating to the healing of intergenerational trauma. If you are new to this field, I suggest you start reading my first post, entitled Indigenous Trauma and Healing. You can then access the second post by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.... and so on. I will gradually add more and more posts over time. I hope you enjoy.

Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 2

“Culture has become life-giving medicine for our people, closing the wounds of the past and standing us strong to face the future.

Our Elders have been fundamental in this process. They are our wisdom keepers. They have seen the changes, so dramatically incurred in their lifetime. They are the vital bridge between the modern world and Aboriginal culture. They are the leaders of our communities, to whom we continue to rely on for guidance and counseling.

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Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 1

This ‘Culture is Life’ Campaign video highlights the problem of youth suicide amongst Indigenous people of Australia. Youth suicide is a problem amongst Indigenous peoples of other colonised nations.

Below, are some quotes from The Elders Report into Preventing Self-harm & Youth Suicide. This is a seminal report that brings together the voices of Elders and community leaders from across affected communities that wished to speak publicly about the causes and solutions needed to address this issue. These quotes reflect what the Elders see happening on the ground:

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Severe Dysfunction in Some Levels of Government

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and well-being, then we must understand the nature of the problems. Sadly, parts of government do not have that understanding, as illustrated by Professor Judy Atkinson. [View from 9’20” until 17’39”]

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Society is Failing to Tackle Historical Trauma

images-2‘The bureaucratic interventions of the state – the processes of law, social welfare, and health care – have not addressed the core issue of human traumatisation. These issues, in many cases, compounded the trauma by creating and increasing dependency on the state, which, while intensifying the feelings of victimisation, also enforces the beliefs of being powerless to change destructive circumstances.’ Judy Atkinson

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing, we have to tackle core underlying problems such as transgenerational trauma. However, our health care systems do not address transgenerational trauma—they just manage its symptoms, e.g. by prescribing medications to ‘treat’ emotional distress.

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Shocking History Impacts on the Health and Wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples

Professor Marion Kickett relates how she and the other Noongar children in York, Western Australia, were not allowed to swim in a particular area of the river. When she was fifteen, her father described how he and his friends were similarly told by their parents not to swim in that location. He also related the shocking story of The Sandy.

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Don Coyhis: What the Boarding Schools Did to Our Community

Don Coyhis, Founder of the Wellbriety Movement in America, describes Native Indian culture and communities before the issues that arose from intergenerational trauma. This trauma arose partly through the government-led introduction of boarding schools across America to to which Indian children were sent. [16’02”]

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Joe Solanto: Intergenerational Trauma Amongst First Nations People of Canada

In these two film clips, Dr. Joe Solanto discusses what trauma is and how the experiences of colonisation for First Nations peoples in Canada” qualify” as trauma. He describes how trauma is transmitted across generations. Crime and other social problems are understandable responses to trauma. [7’26” and 9’43”]

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Judy Atkinson: Reflecting on Historical Trauma and its Consequences

“I can talk for ever on this. I have been standing up and talking about this for 25 years. In Queensland, out at the Cape communities, in the Kimberleys, through the Territory, in South Australia, in New South Wales. Transgenerational trauma … it’s like nobody wants to hear.”

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‘Ruby’s Story’: Marion Kickett

It’s hard to believe that it is over seven years ago since I launched Sharing Culture, an educational initiative to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma. It is also over seven years since Michael Liu and I went out with Professor Marion Kickett to her home country in York to film her describing her life, country, culture, spirituality, family, education and resilience. Marion is a Noongar leader from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

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How Trauma Flows Through the Generations

‘Our first generations were killed and imprisoned, and females sexually misused. Our second generations turned to alcohol or drugs as their cultural and spiritual identity was damaged; in our third generations we had spousal assault and societal trauma.

In our fourth generations the abuse moves from spousal abuse to child abuse or both. In the fifth generations, the cycle repeats as trauma begats violence, begats trauma. And in our sixth generations the grown children of the conquerors begin to live in fear of the grown children of the conquered.’ Judy Atkinson

The title of Judy Atkinson’s book is particularly well-chosen—trauma leaves trails across the generations. In the quote above, Judy briefly summarises the violence that has been experienced by Aboriginal people, violence that has produced trauma which has become cumulative and more complex across generations. This trauma has impacted upon individuals, families and communities.

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‘My stolen childhood, and a life to rebuild’: Sheila Humphries

In my last Healing post, I wrote about ‘Bringing them home’, the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. This report tells the stories of many of the so-called Stolen Generations. I also provided a link to the compelling Bringing Them Home documentary.

Some time ago, I came across this deeply moving YouTube film of Shelia Humphries giving her TEDxPerth talk. Sheila is such a wonderful speaker and her story had me in tears. It beggars belief what was done to Aboriginal people in Australia in the past.

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The ‘Bringing them home’ documentary

The documentary Bringing them home: separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, found on the Australian Human Rights Commission YouTube channel, ‘was produced in 1997 and forms part of the Bringing them home education resource for use in Australian classrooms.

This resource is based on ‘Bringing them home’, the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, and on the history of forcible separation and other policies which have impacted on the lives of Indigenous Australians.’

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The Stolen Generations

When I came to live in Australia in December 2008, I knew little about the past government policy of removing Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. This policy was introduced by Federal and State government acts in order to assimilate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into the white-dominated society of Australia. In essence, to help ‘make’ these children ’white’. Children taken from their families as a result of this policy are now known as the ‘Stolen Generations’.  

I felt embarrassed that I did not know more about the Stolen Generations, particularly as I am a person who is very well read. However, I was soon to realise that I was just one of a vast majority of people outside Australia who knew nothing about Australia’s policy of removing Aboriginal children (in particular children of mixed race) from their families. In fact, I know few people outside of Australia who have heard of this policy. It is one of Australia’s best kept ‘secrets’.

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The Impact of Colonisation

The impact of colonisation on Indigenous peoples has been similar in a number of countries, including Australia, Canada, America and New Zealand. In her book Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines, Professor Judy Atkinson describes how the control of Indigenous peoples by the coloniser was facilitated by three main types of power abuse or violence—overt physical violence, covert structural violence, and psychosocial domination.

Overt physical violence: In Australia, the arrival of the British boats at Sydney Cove in 1788 set in motion a series of disasters that propagated trauma upon trauma upon trauma. These disasters impacted upon Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people who had lived on the continent for somewhere between 50 – 70,000 years.

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Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational trauma—sometimes called transgenerational or historical trauma—amongst Indigenous peoples is the trauma that has arisen as a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture.

As it was not addressed at the time, this trauma (and associated grief) have been passed down unwittingly through the generations by peoples’ behaviours and thought patterns.

Today, this trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements.

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12 Principles of Indigenous Healing

When I first developed the educational healing resource Sharing Culture, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and historical trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world.  I have decided to make an article on these principles the first  in our educational journey into Indigenous trauma and healing.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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The Value of Deep Listening: The Aboriginal Gift to the Nation—Judy Atkinson

I was inspired into the field of trauma healing by a remarkable Aboriginal woman, Judy Atkinson.

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage. She lives in Goolmangar, New South Wales. Judy is Patron/Elder Advisor for We Al-li Programs, a remarkable healing initiative. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for her services to the Indigenous community, to education and to mental health.

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Indigenous Trauma and Healing

images-1“We are like the tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt, but inside the tree, the sap is still flowing and under the ground, the roots are still strong. Like the tree, we have endured the flames and yet we still have the power to be reborn.” Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Senior Australian of the Year, 2021

This section of the website focuses on the healing of trauma and historical trauma, in particular in relation to Indigenous peoples.  I will write a series of articles, which will appear in the order they are written (oldest first), in an attempt to take the reader on a journey into this fascinating field.

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