'Colonisation changed our world. The horrific history of how Aboriginal people were treated by those colonising this country and how government-sanctioned and church-sanctioned systems perpetuated the trauma into the 20th century is described in several chapters in this book.
The goal here is not to reiterate these facts but rather to offer a thesis on the psychological and social mechanisms by which they changed the mind-sets and behaviours of Aboriginal men and women for generations.
For too long now some Aboriginal men and women have survived in a state of oppression; whether by choice or circumstance is a matter of perspective and opinion. The authors and others propose that those who colonised Australia purposely applied four main tactics - attacking four core values - that irreparably changed the culture and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by specifically targeting the role of men in their families and the community.
These four core values are: identity, responsibilities, relationships and spirituality. Below we explain what we mean by these domains and how the Red Dust Healing program and prescribed tools help undo the effects of these tactics and promote healing.
By changing their names, and removing them from their role as the source of love and resources in the family, Aboriginal men and women lost their sense of identity. For example, as late as the 1960s, some people were given dehumanising names such as ‘Diesel Engine’ or ‘Pox’ when they were required to make their mark to receive rations or welfare support.
Any identity related to their role in the community was also obliterated as many were removed from their homes and placed in missions, institutions and on secluded islands far from their families and communities.
Men were the protectors, teachers, Lore-makers and providers of the basic necessities for their families (food, safety, security, and affection), but these responsibilities were forcibly removed.
Family-based responsibilities were shifted by external forces to governments that determined to whom and when resources were delivered.
Men were stripped of their traditional roles as skilled hunters, keepers and sharers of cultural and traditional knowledge, toolmakers, builders of shelters and canoes, etc.
Men and women had been responsible for educating the next generation but significant chasms in the communication network for transmitting traditional knowledge and social values were created.
Fractured relationships led to lost opportunities to learn how to be a father, husband, son, etc. and lost opportunities to share that wisdom with their family and young people in the community.
They lost the opportunity to observe and learn from Elders so they could pass on ways of conducting oneself in relationships that fostered meaningful connection rather than just control.
Many of the men grew up not knowing how to show emotion and build relationships in their own families and with other men.
The centuries old connection to the land and the traditional spiritual sense that permeated Aboriginal life was attacked as part of the tactics noted above.
Spirituality (the feeling felt within) was replaced by an imposed religion (an external, man-made interpretation) that was linked to accessing resources. This tactic is summarised by Powell as, ‘Religion defined us, confined us and controlled us’.
Many Aboriginal people had to possess an exemption certificate known as the ‘dog tag’. They had to seek permission from the controlling mission or reserve superintendent if they wanted to leave the place of control, however, the exemption certificate still incorporated strict guidelines which one had to comply with if they were to reside amongst the general population.
The new religion simply did not serve the same meaningful role in Aboriginal life. The Aboriginal spiritual sense provided continuity and an understanding of how to live in harmony. Religion did not provide appropriate tools to replace traditional ways of thinking or behaving.
Non-Indigenous people need to think what it would be like if their lives were compromised in the way that has happened to Indigenous people - over many generations.