The chapter by Lorraine Peeters and colleagues in the excellent publication Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice is powerful and essential reading. Here is a quote just to whet your appetite.
'Healing the Stolen Generations
The Bringing Them Home Report highlighted that ‘only Indigenous people themselves are able to comprehend the full extent of the effects of the removal policies’ and recommended that ‘services to redress these effects must be designed, provided and controlled by Indigenous people themselves’.
The trauma of policies and practices of forcible removal has been compounded by the widespread denial about what actually happened to us, and this has included denial by mental health practitioners. Survivors of forcible removal carry heavy burdens of trauma and this can frighten practitioners who do not understand it, where it comes from, or how to heal it.
A core belief of the Marumali Program is that, when survivors of forcible removal embark on a healing journey, they are experiencing normal human distress and suffering in response to what they went through, rather than showing symptoms of mental illnesses or disorders.
For many years, those of us who tried to get assistance to heal were misdiagnosed, left to flounder in our distress, or met with blank stares from non-Aboriginal mental health practitioners that left us feeling that our pain had no meaning and made no sense.
While many who were forcibly removed may be afraid to undertake a healing journey because of the pain it will reawaken, there is no need to be afraid - with support from others we are able to confront this pain and heal from its effects.
Our journey of healing is one of recovering our culture and identity as Aboriginal people even though this reactivates our trauma. For many reasons, we are a unique group with unique healing needs, and out of necessity have had to become the experts of our own trauma and healing. We have learnt a lot about the long-term and transgenerational effects of removal by observing our own healing journeys, and assisting each other to heal.
As survivors, we have clear views about what needs to happen to support other survivors to heal. We ask that our views are heard and our knowledge respected, since no other group has experienced what we did at the hands of governments and their agencies.
For us, healing involves mind, body, spirit, spirituality, family, culture and sometimes (if we are lucky) country. It is about finding our ‘belonging place’, whatever that might mean to each of us. How we were removed, and the diverse experiences we had following removal, have created unique individuals, and the ‘belonging place’ we find for ourselves will reflect this diversity.
A lot has been learnt from facilitating more than 200 five day workshops throughout Australia for the past 13 years with nearly 2000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers from all walks of life, groups of survivors themselves, and inmates in jail about the effects of forcible removal.'