The trauma experienced by Indigenous people as a result of colonisation and subsequent policies, such as the forced removal of children, has had devastating consequences. The disruption of our culture and the negative impacts on the cultural identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has had lasting negative effects, passed from generation to generation. The cumulative effect of historical and intergenerational trauma severely reduces the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to fully and positively participate in their lives and communities, thereby leading to widespread disadvantage.
This is particularly true for our children and young people who we must recognise are hurting. They have been witness to, and experienced first-hand, the trauma that past government policies have had on their families and communities. Without adequate opportunities to overcome trauma, young people internalise their experiences and seek to find their own means of coping. This often results in negative behaviours such as high rates of drug and alcohol addiction, violence directed at themselves and others, criminal behaviour and interaction in the justice system, gang membership, homelessness and leaving school early.
It is clear that the current responses to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are not working. Across the country our children and young people are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice systems. Investment in services and programs that address the symptoms of disadvantage – safety, health, housing, education and employment – are important, but without first addressing the healing needs of children, young people and families, such interventions are likely to have limited effect.
The Healing Foundation is committed to creating new approaches to redress these negative outcomes for our children. This paper will outline our understanding of intergenerational trauma, the emerging evidence of what works in addressing trauma and how this fits within our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems. The paper will also focus on how the Healing Foundation is using this information to create a healing environment for our children and young people.