In June 2021 the Healing Foundation published new research which finds there are 11,500 descendants of Stolen Generations aged over 18 resident in Victoria.158 The Royal Commission in Victoria’s Mental Health system has estimated that around 47% of the Victorian Aboriginal population have a relative who was Stolen Generation.159 According to research conducted by Finity Consulting there are approximately 9,500-11,300 Victorian descendants of Stolen Generations.160 This indicates approximately one sixth of the Victorian Aboriginal population that may be struggling with the impacts of intergenerational trauma. Further information on the Victorian Stolen Generations descendants population estimate will be provided in the Finity Consulting final report for the Steering Committee in late June 2021.
In 1997, recommendation four of the Bringing Them Home Report stated that family members, communities and descendants of Stolen Generations impacted by the separations of children from families should receive Reparations. The report stated that Reparations should be provided more broadly then just to Stolen Generations to recognise ‘…that the need for rehabilitation will be felt by the people who were removed, their families including their own children and grandchildren and their communities as a whole’.161
During the time period between the Bringing Them Home Report and current time intergenerational trauma has been further researched and identified as an ongoing issue for families of Stolen Generations.162 Although detailed research on how to address intergenerational trauma is still limited there are recent findings that have explored intergenerational trauma and the changes needed for family and community violence, Aboriginal women and Koori parenting in Victoria.163 Intergenerational trauma is now understood as ‘… the effects of traumatic experiences endured during childhood and adulthood being transmitted to subsequent generations.’164
Research by the Healing Foundation and Maru Marri, University of New South Wales summarised the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma experience for Stolen Generations and families as ‘the ongoing legacy of not adequately addressing the burden of trauma in the population of people who directly experienced it, and the transgenerational transmission of social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing problems as a result of connections that were severed or attenuated by past government policies.’165
Victorian researcher Dr Graham Gee has noted the importance of considering intergenerational resilience when looking for solutions to healing intergenerational trauma ‘because it’s the strengths and the Cultures of Aboriginal people that provide the very sources of having survived’.166 Intergenerational resilience has been defined as: ‘the processes whereby people ensure to the best extent possible that the next generations of human and other-than-human relations [i.e. the natural environment] have what they need to flourish’167
In 2008 the Stolen Generations Victoria Report ‘Unfinished Business’ highlighted that the issue of ‘transgenerational impacts’ of Stolen Generations stating that ‘…removal effects not only the first generations, but second and third…’. This issue was raised at all community consultations during this time and as such all twelve recommendations made were aimed at healing for both Stolen Generations, families and communities.168
In 2019 Dr Gee summarised the complexity of intergenerational trauma in Victoria as follows: ‘socio-historical and cultural risk factors such as being members of the stolen generation, and those that have experienced intergenerational cultural losses … combined with intergenerational poverty and other social disadvantages such as poor access to education and housing – further compounded by alcohol and drug misuse – especially ice use at this time – and family violence, such as physical, emotional and childhood sexual abuse, and neglect – all of this contributes to re-traumatisation. And when you include ongoing experiences of racism, structural inequality and social exclusion that we see in this Country, you end up with younger generations who do not see a future for themselves, who do not see themselves represented in the future of this Country.’’169
In 2020 the Healing Foundation outlined a framework for healing intergenerational trauma in Victoria including the following components:170
- Financial redress for Stolen Generations and descendants.
- A collective healing fund that expands support and resources for Stolen Generations organisations (and other organisations nominated by Stolen Generations) to deliver co-designed healing programs focused on the specific needs of Stolen Generations and their families.
- Works with other jurisdictions to resource and implement a national strategy for addressing intergenerational trauma, developed with Stolen Generations.
- Contribute to establishing a Communities for Healing program that is holistic, healing-informed, evidence-based, and community led.
- Support developing a national accountability framework to monitor and report progress towards achieving better outcomes for Stolen Generations and their descendants.
In 2021 The Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission reported at length on the impacts of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal Victorians and stated ‘The Commission agrees that responding to these experiences requires a mental health workforce that understands how intergenerational trauma affects Aboriginal people’s trust of services and willingness to seek help, as well as the ‘intersections between systemic racism, family violence, trauma and mental health stigma’.171 The Royal Commission however did not specify further on this in their recommendations on mental health and trauma. The recommendations state that a ‘Statewide Trauma Service’ be established to ‘deliver the best possible mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people of all ages with a lived experience of trauma’ and that the Statewide Trauma Service conduct research, develop and deliver training, develop peer-led support services, facilitate access to specialist trauma expertise.172
Victorian Responses to Intergenerational Trauma
- The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework identifies intergenerational trauma, under address trauma and support healing, as one of four areas Victorian Government should prioritise to enable self-determination.173
- The ‘Korin Korin Balit-Djak Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–2027’ references the intergenerational trauma impacts on Aboriginal physical, social and emotional health.174
- The 2017-2027 ‘Balit Murrup Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework’ states ‘We will develop mental health literacy, acknowledge past, current and intergenerational trauma, enable opportunities for people to heal and recover, and adopt approaches that include whole-of-person and whole-of-community strategies.’175
- The Nargneit Birrang - Aboriginal holistic healing framework for family violence, ‘…recognises intergenerational trauma from past policies and practices as an integral part of family violence and service design framework is responsive to requirements arising from this’.176
- Victorian Aboriginal Health Service developed a parenting resource called ‘Breaking the Cycle of Trauma, Koori Parenting, What Works for Us.’177
- Research and understanding of intergenerational trauma and holistic implementation of a community led healing strategy.178
158 Healing Foundation, 2 June 2021, Make Healing Happen: It’s Time to Act
159 Royal Commission into Victoria Mental Health System, 2021, Supporting Aboriginal Social Emotional Wellbeing, Volume 3, Chapter 20
160 Finity Consulting Pty Ltd, May 2021, Stolen Generations Reparations: Interim Report for Stolen Generations Reparations Steering Committee - Draft Findings [Final Report will be provided in late June 2021]
161 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997, Bringing Them Home Report
162 Healing Foundation, 2 June 2021, Make Healing Happen: It’s Time to Act
163 Australian Human Rights Commission, 2020, Wiyi Yani U Thangani; Women’s Voices, Securing Our Rights, Securing Our Future; Guthrie, J., Thurber, K., Lovett, R. et al. 2020, 'The answers were there before white man come in': stories of strength and resilience for responding to violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - Family Community Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Study Report; Gee, G., Lesniowska, R., Santhanam-Martin, R., & Chamberlain, C., 2020, ‘Breaking the Cycle of Trauma – Koori Parenting, What Works for Us’, First Peoples Child & Family Review, 15(2), 45-66
164 Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, 10 July 2019, Witness Statement of Dr Graham Gee
165 Healing Foundation and Maru Marri, University of New South Wales, November 2014, A Resource for Collective Healing for Members of the Stolen Generations: Planning, implementing and evaluating effective local response
166 Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, 10 July 2019, Witness Statement of Dr Graham Gee
167 Williams, L., and Claxton, N., 2017, ’Recultivating Intergenerational Resilience: Possibilities for “Scaling DEEP” through Disruptive Pedagogies of Decolonization and Reconciliation’, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 22, 58-79
168 Stolen Generations Victoria, 2008, Unfinished Business: Reparations, Restitution and Rehabilitation
169 Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, 10 July 2019, Witness Statement of Dr Graham Gee
170 Healing Foundation, 21 February 2020, Submission to Victoria Legislative Assembly and Social Issues Committee, Forced Adoptions Inquiry
171 Royal Commission into Victoria Mental Health System, 2021, Supporting Aboriginal Social Emotional Wellbeing, Volume 3, Chapter 20
172 Royal Commission into Victoria Mental Health System, 2021, Supporting Aboriginal Social Emotional Wellbeing, Volume 1, Chapter 15
173 Victoria Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023
174 Victoria Government, Department of Health and Human Services, Korin Korin Balit-Djak Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–2027
175 Victoria Government, Department of Health and Human Services, Balit Murrup, Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework, 2017-2017
176 Victoria Government, Family Safety Victoria, 2019, Nargneit Birrang - Aboriginal Holistic Healing Framework for Family violence, 2019
178 Healing Foundation, 21 February 2020, Submission to Victoria Legislative Assembly and Social Issues Committee, Forced Adoptions Inquiry; Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, 10 July 2019, Witness Statement of Dr Graham Gee