Addiction and Psychological Pain

During the many years I spent working in the addiction and mental health field, first as a neuroscientist and later helping empower people to facilitate their recovery (healing), I rarely heard the word ‘trauma’ being used.

Few practitioners I met mentioned that the person with the substance use problem might be self-medicating to ameliorate psychological pain. And yet in society, there were plenty of people visiting their doctor and obtaining a prescription of benzodiazepines such as librium, which are highly addictive substances, or antidepressants, which also produce problems, to help them deal with unpleasant psychological states of anxiety or depression.

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Ruby’s Healing Story

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. [I don’t upload new content on the website now, but the content is still there for viewing.]

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 Elder from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

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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. 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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‘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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‘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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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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Ruby’s Healing Story

Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, shares the harrowing story of Ruby and describes how her early experiences impacted on her life. By forgiving people involved in these terrible events, Ruby started a healing process which led to her realising a dream. Sharing Culture. [9’42”]

The Stolen Generations

The history of forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families in Australia. National Museum of Australia. [18’00”]

Bringing them home: separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families

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. Australian Human Rights Commission. [32’29”]

My stolen childhood, and a life to rebuild | Sheila Humphries | TEDxPerth

“This story is not a pretty one” begins Sheila Humphries who, as a child, was taken from her parents and placed in an orphanage by authorities who thought they knew best. One voice of the stolen Generation, Sheila, with many other indigenous Australian children, suffered cruelty and neglect that has shaped her as an adult, for good and for ill. The effects are still writ large on Sheila’s life and it’s a part of Australian history we must never forget. TEDx Talks. [14’50”]

Intergenerational Trauma Animation

If people don’t have the opportunity to heal from trauma, they may unknowingly pass it on to others through their behaviour. Their children may experience difficulties with attachment, disconnection from their extended families and culture and high levels of stress from family and community members who are dealing with the impacts of trauma. This can create developmental issues for children, who are particularly susceptible to distress at a young age. This creates a cycle of trauma, where the impact is passed from one generation to the next… Healing Foundation, Australia. [4’02’]