Principle 4: The past impacts on the present

Holistic healing approaches should adopt a strengths-based approach that is informed by an understanding of the impact of past policies, practices and intergenerational trauma on Aboriginal people, families and communities today, recognising colonisation as the first act of violence.

Healing approaches should acknowledge the strength and survival of Aboriginal culture.

Importantly, healing approaches need to be trauma-informed and understand intergenerational trauma on Aboriginal people and communities today for resilient and hopeful futures to be actualised.

It is acknowledged that there is a gendered element to family violence for Aboriginal people, but family violence also sits within the violence of colonisation and its ongoing legacy, including the displacement of men from their traditional roles and the forced removal of children. A higher proportion of Aboriginal people in Victoria have been directly impacted by the Stolen Generations than any other State or Territory. It is also acknowledged that this past policy has had a transgenerational impact on the children of the Stolen Generations, some of whom were adopted out to non-Aboriginal families.

“I was going to start from where I was born. But I realised that it starts before the womb. I've been through periods of my life where I wasn’t the best father or partner. I had the opportunity to change. But many don’t ... constantly being told how to do, what to do and when to do, and I don’t want that for my grandchildren. I have courage and be a part of the solution” - ThinkCamp participant

The grief and trauma resulting from child removal policies are profound, and Aboriginal children continue to be removed from families at disproportionate rates because of exposure to family violence.

To be effective, holistic healing approaches need to be sensitive to and informed by the impacts of trauma on individual, family and community wellbeing. This includes recognising trauma may have accumulated over time and across generations.

An understanding of an individual’s story of trauma is critical to the healing journey, and is interwoven with the stories of that person’s family and community.

Victim survivors, including children, need to have their stories heard and acknowledged so that they can commence or continue their healing journeys.

People who use violence need to be supported in recognising their role in creating trauma and provided with assistance to change their behaviour and heal. Also people that use violence need to be made aware of how their behaviour contributes to an ongoing cycle of trauma and violence.

To undo generations of trauma takes a long time - Research participant

I remember my daughter asking me for a family tree for a school project and I couldn't tell her because I don’t know my family - Research participant.

Service design characteristics

  • Aboriginal culture is celebrated as surviving the first act of violence.
  • Grief and loss within the community is acknowledged and understood.
  • Recognise that complex trauma within the community is linked to past policies and practices and contemporary structures and systemic racism.
  • Recognise that historical and intergenerational trauma accumulates and impacts on the community today.
  • Understand an individual’s story of trauma (grief, loss and other traumas).
  • Recognise that children experience multiple traumas when living in families experiencing family violence.
  • Recognise the impacts of direct and vicarious trauma experiences for staff.
  • Understand that experiences of grief and loss is pervasive in the daily lives of Aboriginal people.

What does this look like in practice for?

Aboriginal people who need healing are provided with:

  • Time and culturally safe spaces and places to heal the past and present.
  • Opportunities to tell their stories to identify and respond to underlying or unresolved trauma.
  • Opportunities to reflect on past policies, and how these have impacted on Aboriginal families today.
  • Opportunities to yarn about the past, and pass on knowledge and learning from generation to generation.
  • Tools to heal from trauma and rebuild a sense of wellbeing, control and empowerment.
  • Referrals to Aboriginal services with an understanding of the impact of the past on Aboriginal people today.

Aboriginal organisations and communities:

  • Provide culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal people.
  • Develop programs that are trauma-informed, address the impacts of trauma including intergenerational trauma on individual, family and community wellbeing, and which break the cycle of violence.
  • Support sharing of stories to recognise and respond to the cycle of violence and address trauma.
  • Listen to and acknowledge an individual’s story of trauma, including the stories of children.
  • Combine the western therapeutic modalities and Aboriginal modalities to better support Aboriginal people.
  • Strengthen Aboriginal workforce to build and share knowledge of trauma, family violence and healing approaches, including through peer support opportunities.
  • Implement trauma informed healing practices for their staff, and provide opportunities for training and recognise formal and informal knowledge.
  • Work holistically with Aboriginal people and their families.
  • Use best available evidence from research and wisdom within the community to design service approaches.


  • Fund healing approaches that are trauma informed and promote community wellbeing.
  • Recognise that healing practices take time and provide funding and reporting flexibility.
  • Recognise the importance of traditional and contemporary cultural practices in healing from family violence, and fund these practices.
  • Support compliance requirements that are aligned with holistic healing approaches.
  • Transfer funding to Aboriginal services and organisations.