31 October 2019

Indigenous voices send vital message on intergenerational trauma

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A collaboration of Indigenous voices gathered in Perth to discuss solutions on the impacts of intergenerational trauma stemming from forced removal policies.

There are currently 20,421 indigenous children in out of home care, representing 37.3 per cent of the out of home care population. Since Kevin Rudd’s apology to Stolen Generation survivors, the rate of forcible children has increased massively.

Whilst there are concerns that children being placed in out of home care may experience the same loss of identity and connection to family, country and culture, this should not be cited as a second Stolen Generation.


Healing is part of life and continues through death and into life again. It occurs throughout a person’s life journey as well as across generations”, said Helen Milroy, Professor at the University of Western Australia and Commissioner for the National Mental Health Commission, when speaking at the National Indigenous Social and Emotional Wellbeing Forum in Perth.

“Healing is not just about recovering what has been lost or repairing what has been broken. It is about embracing our life force to create a new and vibrant fabric that keeps us grounded and connected, wraps us in warmth and love and gives us the joy of seeing what we have created,” said Helen.

The four-day conference, run by Akolade in partnership with Yokai and Two Point Co, focuses on the wider issues relating to social and emotional wellbeing and mental health in Indigenous communities. Tuesday 29 October, kicked off with a pre-conference focused on supporting Stolen Generations survivors.

Indigenous Elders and community leaders from different walks of life and different parts of Australia shared the message that something needs to be done. The impact of previous forced removal policies are impacting today’s younger generations, and Australia’s seeing higher child removal rates than ever as a result.

The impact of intergenerational trauma is profound and growing, and if nothing is done it will continue to tear families and communities apart.

Maisie Austin, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, highlighted the ongoing impacts of forcible removals on Stolen Generations survivors. In order to help survivors of Stolen Generations and their families heal, and stop ongoing cycles of negativity, intergenerational trauma needs to be effectively addressed. It is important that the impacts of forcible removal on families and communities are fully understood in order to find ways forward.

“It’s important to address the impacts that past forcible removal policies are having on today’s younger generations, and to ensure history isn’t forgotten or repeated,” Austin said. Governments, communities and organisations need to collaborate and share knowledge and resources to address these issues. Intergenerational trauma is a growing problem, which can sometimes lead to different issues, such as family breakdowns, resulting in children being placed in out-of-home care.

The remaining days of the conference will see further discussions on breaking down the stigma and shame attached to mental illness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, vital to opening the conversation and enabling better access to services. With cases of Indigenous suicide increasing at an alarming rate, Australia urgently needs to rethink the services currently being offered and implement strategies to increase Social and Emotional Wellbeing.

If individuals and communities can work together and better understand the different constructs of mental health, then a holistic approach to social and emotional wellbeing with culturally inclusive services may be better accessed. It’s important that everyone works together to build trust in services and start the conversation on mental health, because mental health is everyone’s business.

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Written by: Mimmie Wilhelmson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.



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