The consequences of historical trauma include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, self-harm and suicide.
Today, the impact of historical trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, experiences of racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements.
Society’s health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems do not address the core issue of human traumatisation amongst Indigenous people. Rather, they just manage the symptoms, e.g. by prescribing medications.
This ‘band-aid’ approach has fostered a climate of disempowerment, hopelessness and blame which perpetuates psychological problems. It has contributed to youth suicides, imprisonments and child removals reaching record levels. Trauma will pass on to another generation.
It is time for a profound change, time to address a major civil rights issue – the poor health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.
Society has the knowledge to heal historical trauma and its consequences, as evidenced by the large numbers of Indigenous people who live happy and successful lives. Many of these people have healed from historical trauma and its consequences. They have shown great strengths and resilience, as well as the necessary coping mechanisms and skills to rise above adversity.
These people are the lived solution, the role models who can inspire and teach other Indigenous people.
Indigenous people have a holistic view of health that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental. This view, which has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, is far richer than the western view of mental health, which is generally focused on the medical model – pathology, deficits and symptom management.
Indigenous people have cultural healing methods that are effective in healing historical trauma and its consequences. Indigenous people have shown they can heal, but our society does not help facilitate this healing process. Instead, it puts barriers in place.
We expect Indigenous people to change. But government does not change. It does not provide Indigenous people with the resources to build culturally safe and respectful environments for healing to occur.
Government does not listen to Indigenous people; it imposes its views and actions through a top-down approach. This is nonsensical, when science shows that self-determination is the foundation for recovery and healing.
Let’s listen to Mick Gooda from the recent Elders Report into Indigenous self-harm and suicide:
“… The speakers in this Report are calling for urgent understanding and action to improve Indigenous wellbeing in Australia. What we know from decades of experience is that bringing in outsiders does not lead to long term solutions – these can only come from within communities, who need to own and control the healing process.
Themes such as community empowerment, the strengthening of cultural identity, maintenance of Indigenous languages, culturally appropriate employment, bi-cultural education and returning to country; these human rights are what our people have been advocating for decades and for good reason…”'
Please check out the Policy Reform for Justice in the Australian Parliament facebook page I wrote this article for. Other contributors include Professor Jon Altman, Julian Burnside, Gary Foley, Gerry Georgatos, Aunty Susan Rankin, Marcel Svirsky and Samuel Wilson.
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