The Effects of Intergenerational Trauma on Indigenous Australians
Updated: Jun 20
While the rights and welfare of all people, especially Indigenous Australians, is close to my heart, I had no intention of writing this article. So what prompted me? I knew where I would likely stand on the next referendum to parliament. This referendum is being developed to further reconciliation and give Indigenous Australians a voice. I understand this is a step towards healing and providing them with more recognition, empowerment and self-determination. What I did not know, however, was the level of ignorance and prejudice that remains in Australia today.
After engaging in three conversations on this matter earlier, I realised there remains significant ignorance in Australia about indigenous culture and intergenerational trauma. A sad irony this occurred on Australia Day!
While I am far from an expert in this area, I do feel that Australians need to be fully informed before the next referendum. While there is nothing we can do to change the terrible wrongs of the past, we can take action to support our Indigenous Australian brothers and sisters to have a better future. We should commit to actions that promote healing and reconciliation. Surely, supporting our indigenous Australians to have a voice on their own affairs and promote self-determination is not asking for much?
This article explores this complex issue. Please appreciate, however, that this is just a brief article on these issues and should the reader want more information they should seek further reading to better understand these complex issues.
Indigenous Australians, also known as 'First Nations Australians' and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have diverse cultures, languages and customs, and therefore have different preferences on how they like to be referred to. For instance, the term "Aboriginal" is used to refer to Indigenous people of mainland Australia, while "Torres Strait Islander" refers to Indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, which are located between mainland Australia and Papua New Guinea.
I understand it is generally considered respectful and appropriate to use the term "Indigenous Australians" when referring to the country's first peoples. As such, I will use Indigenous Australians respectfully throughout this article.
In our daily life, be mindful of the context and relationship when addressing Indigenous peoples, and follow their guidance. It is important to ask the person how they prefer to be addressed and to respect their preference. They may prefer to be addressed by their specific language, clan, or community name, or may prefer to be called by their personal name. It's also important to understand that terminology and identity can change over time and to be open to learning and adapting.
Traumatic Events Experienced by Indigenous Australians
The European colonisation of Australia not only led to the deaths of Indigenous Australians but also displacement of the survivors. The violence and killings of Indigenous peoples by European settlers, both intentional and as a result of introduced diseases and displacement, greatly reduced the population of Indigenous peoples. The government policies of the time, including forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, forced labor, and the introduction of diseases, were also aimed at assimilating or destroying Indigenous peoples and cultures.
The term "genocide" is defined as the intentional destruction of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Genocide results in the destruction of a group of people; including their culture and identity. The United Nations defines genocide as any act committed with intent to destroy a national ethnic religious or racial group within an occupied territory.
The Australian Museum states:
'...Professor Lyndall Ryan and her research team ... found that there were at least 270 frontier massacres over 140 years of Australian history, as part of a state-sanctioned and organised attempts to eradicate First Nations people (3). For Ryan’s work, a massacre is defined as the deliberate killing of six or more defenceless people in one operation. If you investigate some of these massacres in depth you can see how systematic they were. Ryan’s work is in no means comprehensive as many massacres were not documented and many others covered up. Because of colonial genocidal actions like state-sanctioned massacres, the First Nations population went from an estimated 1-1.5 million before invasion to less than 100,000 by the early 1900s (4).'
Based on these figures, only 10-15% of Indigenous Australians survived colonisation. Scholars and Indigenous leaders have argued that the actions of the Australian government and settlers against Indigenous peoples constitute genocide under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Evidence supports there were acts of genocide against our indigenous population, as well as cultural and ethnic cleansing. In Australia, there is substantial evidence that the population of Indigenous people were greatly reduced and indigenous culture and society were greatly damaged.
Theft of Land
The theft of land was the first act of violence that occurred against Indigenous Australians, but it was not the last. The theft of culture, language and identity from Indigenous Australians can be traced to this period in history.
The European settlers saw themselves as superior to Indigenous Australians because they had developed a more 'advanced' culture with agriculture and livestock farming, as well as a written language. They believed that their own beliefs were better and therefore should replace those of Indigenous Australians.
A white man named Edward Eyre acted on this belief when he tried to “civilise” the Kulin people in 1840 by destroying their sacred sites and replacing them with Christian churches. He claimed there was no point teaching them English because they would just revert back to their original lifestyle when his influence disappeared (Berger).
The removal of Indigenous Australians from their traditional lands has had a devastating impact on their communities. Many Indigenous Australians have strong spiritual, cultural, and emotional connections to the land, and being forced to leave it has resulted in the loss of their heritage, identity, and way of life.
The forced displacement of Indigenous Australians from their lands has also often been accompanied by violence and atrocities committed by colonisers. This has resulted in the deaths of many Indigenous Australians, and has left deep emotional and psychological scars on those who survived.
Removal from their land also means that Indigenous Australians have lost access to traditional resources such as food, medicine, and materials for cultural practices, which has had a negative impact on their physical and mental health.
Additionally, the loss of land has also led to the loss of economic opportunities, as Indigenous Australians were often dependent on the land for their livelihoods. This has contributed to the high levels of poverty and marginalisation experienced by Indigenous communities today.
The loss of land also means the loss of political power, as they were no longer able to govern and make decisions about their own territories. This has led to the erosion of Indigenous peoples' autonomy and self-determination.
Yes, Indigenous peoples in Australia were forced into labor as part of government policies aimed at assimilating Indigenous Australians into white society. This forced labor was known as the "Protection" or "Removal" policies, which were implemented by the government in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Indigenous Australians, particularly those living in rural areas, were often taken from their families and communities and placed in missions or reserves. They were then forced to work on farms, cattle stations, and other properties without pay. They were also forced to attend Christian missions and schools, where they were often subjected to abuse, neglect, and forced to abandon their cultural practices.
The forced labor of Indigenous peoples was also used for government projects, such as the construction of roads, railways, and other infrastructure. Indigenous Australians were also used to replace non-Indigenous workers who were on strike.
The forced labor of Indigenous Australians was a significant factor in the erosion of Indigenous cultures and communities. Many Indigenous peoples were forced to abandon their traditional ways of life and were denied access to their traditional lands, resources, and cultural practices.
This has had a negative impact on the social and economic well-being of Indigenous communities and has contributed to the high levels of poverty and marginalisation experienced by Indigenous Australians today.
It's important to note that the forced labor of Indigenous peoples in Australia is considered a form of exploitation and a violation of human rights, and it has been widely criticised by Indigenous leaders, scholars, and human rights organisations.
Australian Aborigines were not recognised as full citizens and did not have the same rights as non-indigenous Australians until the 1960s.
Not being recognised as citizens had significant negative impacts on Indigenous Australians. They were not able to vote in federal elections until 1962, and were often excluded from state-level voting as well. This meant that they had little political representation and little power to shape the laws and policies that affected their lives.
Indigenous Australians were also subject to discriminatory laws and policies, such as the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families (a practice known as the "Stolen Generations") and the forced relocation of Indigenous communities.
Additionally, Indigenous Australians were often denied access to basic services such as education, healthcare, and housing, which contributed to poor health outcomes, high rates of poverty, and limited opportunities for economic and social advancement.
Indigenous Australians also had limited rights to their traditional lands, and many were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands, leading to loss of culture,language and traditions.
Overall, not being recognised as citizens and being subject to discriminatory laws and policies had a devastating impact on Indigenous Australians and their communities.
The 1967 referendum, in which over 90% of Australian voters supported the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in the national census and the granting of federal government powers to make laws for Indigenous Australians, was a significant step towards recognising their rights. However, the process of achieving full rights and equality for Indigenous Australians is ongoing and there is still much work to be done.
The Introduction of Alcohol
The introduction of alcohol by early European settlers in Australia had a significant impact on Indigenous Australians. The use of alcohol by Indigenous peoples was initially rare, but it rapidly became a significant problem after the arrival of Europeans.
The introduction of alcohol led to a number of negative consequences for Indigenous peoples, including:
Economic exploitation: Indigenous Australians were often paid in alcohol instead of money, which led to them becoming dependent on it and unable to support themselves.
Increased rates of alcoholism: Indigenous peoples quickly developed a taste for alcohol, which led to high rates of alcoholism and related health problems, such as liver disease and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Social disruption: Alcohol abuse led to social disruption within Indigenous communities, with increased domestic violence, child abuse, and crime.
Loss of culture and tradition: Alcohol abuse also led to the erosion of Indigenous cultures and traditions, as people were less able to participate in traditional activities and ceremonies, and were less able to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations.
Intergenerational trauma: The negative consequences of alcohol abuse were passed on to future generations, as children grew up in families and communities affected by alcoholism and other related problems.
It's important to note that the introduction of alcohol to Indigenous Australians was a form of exploitation and violation of human rights, and it was a direct result of the policies of the colonisers that aimed to assimilate Indigenous peoples into white society.
The stolen generations were Indigenous Australians children who were taken from their families by the Australian government, so they could be raised by non-Indigenous Australian families. They were taken to be taught how to live like a white person and get rid of their identity as an Indigenous Australian.
The forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, known as the Stolen Generations, has had a devastating impact on both the children and their parents.
The children who were removed often experienced severe trauma as a result of being taken away from their families and communities. They were often placed in institutions or with non-Indigenous foster families, where they were subjected to abuse and neglect. Many were forced to assimilate into white culture and were forbidden to speak their own languages or practice their own culture. As a result, they grew up disconnected from their heritage and identity, and often suffered from feelings of loss, abandonment, and confusion.
For the parents and families of the Stolen Generations, the removal of their children was often a traumatic experience that left deep emotional scars. Many parents never saw their children again, and were left with feelings of grief and loss that never fully healed. They also faced the challenge of trying to rebuild their families and communities after such a devastating loss.
The Stolen Generations also had a ripple effect on the Indigenous communities as a whole, as the loss of so many children and the disruption of families and communities had a negative impact on the social and cultural fabric of these communities. It also meant that Indigenous people lost the knowledge and culture that was passed down through generations. Fundamental to their culture, practices and identity.
The forced removal of Indigenous children from their families is considered one of the most traumatic events in the history of Indigenous peoples, and the effects are still felt by Indigenous communities today.
Only by 1969, did all states had repealed the legislation allowing for the removal of First Nations children under the policy of 'protection'.
Contraceptive Practices by Nurses/Doctors.
Contraceptive practices were undertaken without consent on Indigenous Australians. This included forced terminations of pregnancies. As part of their forced assimilation policies, Australian government officials and medical professionals engaged in a systematic practice of compulsory sterilisation. This continued until the 1970s!
Without consent, aborigines were subjected to tubal ligation (a procedure that permanently blocks the fallopian tubes) or vasectomies. In some cases, these procedures were performed on women who had just given birth—sometimes while they were still on the delivery table!
Abortions were also forced upon women in this manner. They were not told about side effects or warned that they could be dangerous for their health.
Racism is a form of discrimination based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin. It often involves the idea that one racial group is superior to another and can lead to violence against members of other groups.
The term was coined in 1839 by the French historian Arthur de Gobineau who argued that "racialism" was the principal factor behind human progress and migration. Racism is an ideology based on the belief that human races possess distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultural and individual capacities; it also asserts that these traits are passed genetically from one generation to the next. In its modern form, racism emerged during the European Enlightenment as a scientific justification for slavery, colonialism and inhuman treatment towards those deemed inferior.
Indigenous Australians, have experienced racism in a variety of ways throughout history and continue to do so today.
Some examples include discrimination in the workplace and housing market, lack of access to education and healthcare, and over-representation in the criminal justice system.
Additionally, Indigenous people's culture, history and rights have been disrespected and oppressed by the government policies. Many Indigenous communities also have to deal with the ongoing effects of colonialism, such as the forced removal of children from their families (the "Stolen Generations") and the loss of traditional lands and resources.
All these factors contribute to the ongoing marginalisation and poverty experienced by many Indigenous people.
Intergenerational trauma refers to the transmission of the effects of traumatic experiences from one generation to the next. This can occur as a result of various traumatic events, such as war, genocide, slavery, and forced relocation. The trauma can be passed down through a variety of means, such as through memories, cultural practices, and epigenetic changes. The effects of intergenerational trauma can include mental and physical health problems, as well as social and economic disparities.
Indigenous Australians have been exposed to a lot of trauma since colonisation. Forced removal from traditions, practices, culture. The impact of colonisation on their way of living made new generations different from their ancestors, which affected their culture and identity.
The effects of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous Australians are largely the result of forced removal from traditional lands, culture and practices.
The government’s policies toward Indigenous Australians during the 20th century were based on assimilationist principles. These principles resulted in Indigenous Australians being gradually absorbed into mainstream society and being educated in Western ways while being encouraged to abandon their own culture. This led to a number of policies which further undermined the identity of Indigenous Australians and disrupted traditional communities across Australia.
The Consequences of Intergenerational Trauma
As a psychologist, the intergenerational or vicarious trauma experienced by the children of people who have suffered trauma has been some of the worst trauma I have witnessed. Why?
The effects of intergenerational trauma can be particularly severe for several reasons:
Trauma can be passed down through multiple generations, compounding the impact of the original traumatic event.
Whereas the cause of direct trauma is obvious, indirect trauma is more insidious and pervasive as it's effects are removed from the initial traumatic event.
Trauma can manifest in a variety of ways, including mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as physical health problems such as chronic pain and heart disease.
Trauma can also lead to social and economic disparities, such as poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities, and limited access to healthcare.
Trauma can also affect the way in which people process and cope with stress, which can lead to a wide range of negative consequences in their personal and professional lives.
The intergenerational trauma can also affect the cultural and community dynamics; it can cause the breakdown of traditional support systems, the erosion of cultural identity and practices, and the loss of historical memory.
Overall, the effects of intergenerational trauma can be far-reaching and have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
We have already outlined just some of the traumatic experiences of Indigenous peoples in Australia. These have included the forced removal of children from their families, forced labor, and discrimination, have had a significant impact on their descendants.
For Indigenous peoples in Australia, the intergenerational effects of trauma can manifest in a number of ways. For example:
Indigenous children who were removed from their families during the Stolen Generations may have experienced trauma that has been passed down to their children and grandchildren.
Children of the stolen generation may also have experienced a loss of cultural identity, which can contribute to feelings of alienation and disconnection from their heritage.
Intergenerational trauma can also manifest in the form of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and higher rates of addiction, self-harm, and suicide.
Indigenous Australians are more likely to experience poverty, unemployment, and poor health outcomes, which can be linked to the ongoing effects of historical trauma.
The intergenerational trauma can also be seen in the disrupted families and communities, which can have negative effects on the social and cultural fabric of Indigenous communities.
The loss of cultural knowledge, language, and traditions that were passed down through generations can also contribute to the erosion of Indigenous culture and identity.
Recognising and addressing the intergenerational effects of trauma is important for the healing and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Australia. This can involve providing support for mental health, education and employment opportunities, and cultural revitalisation programs, as well as addressing current issues such as poverty and access to healthcare.
Poverty can have a significant impact on Indigenous Australians in a variety of ways:
Limited access to basic necessities: Indigenous Australians living in poverty may struggle to access basic necessities such as food, clothing, and housing. This can lead to poor health, as well as social and emotional problems.
Disproportionate impact on children: Children living in poverty are at a higher risk of poor health and developmental outcomes, and Indigenous Australians are over-represented among children living in poverty.
Lack of access to education and employment opportunities: Indigenous Australians living in poverty often have limited access to education and employment opportunities, which can perpetuate cycles of poverty and disadvantage.
Disproportionate impact on health: Indigenous Australians experience higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental health issues, which are often linked to poverty.
Disproportionate impact on justice system: Indigenous Australians are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and poverty can be a contributing factor in this over-representation.
Loss of culture, land and identity: Indigenous Australians poverty can also lead to the loss of culture, land, and identity, which can have a significant impact on the mental, social and emotional well-being of Indigenous Australians.
Overall, poverty can have a significant and far-reaching impact on the lives of Indigenous Australians, and addressing poverty is an important step in improving the well-being of Indigenous Australians.
High Rates of Incarceration of Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians have disproportionately high rates of incarceration compared to non-Indigenous Australians. This is a complex issue that is rooted in a range of factors, including:
Socioeconomic disadvantage: Indigenous Australians experience higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and poor health outcomes, which can contribute to higher rates of crime and incarceration.
Over-policing and discrimination: Indigenous Australians are often disproportionately targeted by police and can be subject to discrimination and bias within the criminal justice system, which can contribute to higher rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration.
Lack of understanding of Indigenous culture: The criminal justice system is often not equipped to understand or respond appropriately to the unique cultural needs of Indigenous Australians, which can lead to inappropriate and ineffective responses to crime and can contribute to higher rates of incarceration.
Intergenerational trauma: Indigenous Australians have experienced a range of injustices and trauma as a result of colonization and government policies, which can contribute to high rates of mental health issues and social problems, including crime and incarceration.
Lack of access to diversionary programs: Indigenous Australians often lack access to diversionary programs, such as drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services, that may help to address underlying issues that contribute to criminal behavior.
It's important to note that addressing the high rates of Indigenous incarceration requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying causes of the problem. It requires a focus on addressing the social and economic disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, as well as addressing discrimination and bias within the criminal justice system, and providing effective and culturally appropriate responses to crime.
Addressing Uniformed Views of Australians
Before addressing some common myths, or what are extremely ignorant views, I will wholeheartedly apologise for anyone offended by me having to repeat and address these views. When I recently heard these views, I was shocked, angry, offended and disgusted that today people can be so ignorant and prejudice.
I make no apologies to people who hold the following views which are born from a total lack of understanding. More Australians need to learn about the complexity, beauty and sophistication of traditional aboriginal culture, as well as the complex issues related to the social and cultural impact of colonisation and intergenerational trauma.
'Why Can't Indigenous Australians Live on Reserves?'
I am embarrassed to even have to have to address this question. I thought Australians were beyond such archaic, misinformed and heartless attitudes until it was posed to me in a discussion about the Voice. Sadly, this attitude apparently still exists. So here is a response.
Firstly, the question reflects that the individual posing the question has no real understanding or appreciation for the complex interrelationship between traditional aboriginals and their identity and ties to their land.
Indigenous Australians are free to live on reserves if they choose to, but many do not, due to a number of reasons that should be obvious.
One reason is that many reserves were established in remote areas, far from population centers, and were often located on poor quality land that was not suitable for farming or other forms of economic development. This has made it difficult for Indigenous peoples to sustain themselves on the reserves and has led many to leave in search of better economic opportunities.
Another reason is that the government policies of forced removal and assimilation caused many Indigenous peoples to lose their connection to their traditional lands, cultures, and communities. This has led to a loss of identity, cultural practices, and traditional knowledge, which makes it difficult for many Indigenous peoples to return to their traditional lands and communities.
Additionally, the reserves were often overcrowded, and the living conditions were poor, and the government didn't provide enough services and resources to the reserves, such as education, healthcare, and housing.
In addition to this, many Indigenous Australians have been displaced from their traditional lands and have settled in urban areas or other regions of Australia, where they have built new lives and communities.
Lastly, I have to say that the concept is just so incredibly insulting to any human being.
'Why Can't Australian Aborigines Just Move On?'
Really? Besides lacking any understanding, or empathy, it is not fair or accurate to suggest that Indigenous Australians should "just move on" from the injustices and trauma they have experienced as a result of colonisation and government policies. The impacts of these injustices are deeply ingrained and long-lasting, and continue to affect Indigenous peoples and communities to this day.
Indigenous Australians continue to experience a range of social and economic disadvantages, such as poverty, poor health outcomes, and high rates of incarceration, which can be directly linked to the ongoing impacts of colonisation and government policies.
Additionally, Indigenous Australians have not been given the opportunity to fully exercise their rights and self-determination, which are essential for healing and moving forward.
Indigenous Australians are asking to be acknowledged, respected, and given the opportunity to heal and be empowered to to have the right to self-determination. Reconciliation is a process that acknowledges the past and present wrongs, and work towards a better future for all Australians, it's a process that requires commitment, understanding, and action from all of us.
What Does Reconciliation Mean for Australian Aboriginals
Reconciliation is the process of addressing and healing the harm caused by past injustices and building a more equitable and just society for Indigenous peoples in Australia.
For Indigenous Australians, reconciliation means:
Acknowledging the past injustices, such as the forced removal of children from their families, forced labor, and the violence and deaths caused by European colonisation.
Taking meaningful steps to address the ongoing impacts of these injustices, such as addressing the high rates of poverty, unemployment, and poor health outcomes experienced by Indigenous peoples.
Reconciliation also means valuing and respecting Indigenous cultures, languages, and heritage. This includes recognising the unique contributions of Indigenous peoples to Australian society and working to ensure that Indigenous cultures and languages are passed on to future generations.
Reconciliation also means working in partnership with Indigenous peoples, listening to their voices and perspectives, and respecting their right to self-determination. This means working with Indigenous peoples to develop policies and programs that meet their needs and support their goals, as well as ensuring that Indigenous peoples have a meaningful role in decision-making processes that affect them.
Reconciliation is a long-term process that requires commitment and action from all Australians, and it's important to note that it's not just an Indigenous issue, but a national one. It requires the acknowledgement of the past, the taking of responsibility for the present and the building of a collaborative future that respects, listens to and empowers indigenous Australians.
Acknowledging Past Injustices: Saying Sorry
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to the Indigenous peoples of Australia for the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, also known as the "Stolen Generations". The apology was made on behalf of the Australian government and the Australian people and recognised the harm and trauma caused by the policy.
The apology was seen by many Indigenous Australians and their supporters as an important step in acknowledging the injustices and trauma that Indigenous peoples have experienced and in moving forward towards reconciliation. Some of the benefits of the apology include:
Recognition of past injustices: The apology helped to acknowledge the past injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples and to recognise the harm and trauma that was caused by the policy of forced removal of children.
Healing for Stolen Generations: The apology helped to begin the process of healing for the Stolen Generations and their families, by acknowledging the harm that was done to them and by providing a sense of validation for the trauma that they experienced.
Opening up a dialogue: The apology helped to open up a dialogue about the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the past and the ongoing challenges they face in the present.
Starting a process of reconciliation: The apology was seen as an important step in the process of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the wider Australian community.
It's important to note that the apology was only one step in addressing the injustices and trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples. It's also important to understand that the apology alone cannot undo the damage caused by the past policies and actions and that more actions and policies are needed to achieve reconciliation and justice.
Why Do Australian Aborigines Need a Voice?
Indigenous Australians have a unique cultural perspective and way of handling individual and community issues that differs from Westerners and other cultures. Some of the key differences include:
Collective responsibility: Indigenous cultures place a strong emphasis on collective responsibility, where the well-being of the community is seen as more important than the well-being of the individual. This means that when an individual experiences a problem or issue, the community works together to support and help that person, rather than expecting them to solve the problem on their own.
Connection to land and culture: Indigenous cultures have a deep spiritual and cultural connection to their traditional lands and environments. This connection is seen as integral to the well-being of both individuals and communities, and is often an important factor in addressing and resolving issues.
Holistic approach: Indigenous cultures often take a holistic approach to addressing issues, considering the physical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural dimensions of a problem. This approach is often more effective than Western approaches that focus solely on the physical or psychological aspects of an issue.
Spiritual healing: Indigenous cultures often rely on traditional healing practices, such as ceremony, song, and dance, to address issues related to mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. These practices are seen as an important part of healing and resolving issues.
Respect for elders and tradition: Indigenous cultures place a high value on respecting and learning from the wisdom and knowledge of the Elders and traditional practices. They often rely on the guidance of Elders when addressing issues, and this is seen as an important aspect of decision-making and problem-solving.
It's important to note that Indigenous Australians have their own way of handling individual and community issues, and this way is shaped by their culture, tradition and history. It's also important to understand that Indigenous Australians have been subjected to many injustices, and their culture and way of handling issues have been impacted by the colonisation and the policies of forced assimilation.
The Voice: The Upcoming Australian Referendum
The Referendum on the Voice is a proposed referendum in Australia that would give Indigenous Australians a voice in the country's political process.
The idea is to establish a representative body for Indigenous Australians that would advise the government on issues related to Indigenous peoples, such as land rights, self-determination, and cultural heritage.
The idea for a referendum on a Voice for Indigenous Australians was first proposed in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was issued by Indigenous leaders from across Australia. The statement called for the creation of a First Nations Voice, which would be enshrined in the Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission, which would oversee a process of truth-telling and agreement-making between Indigenous peoples and the government.
The referendum on a Voice for Indigenous Australians has been supported by a number of Indigenous leaders, as well as by some politicians and community organisations. However, it has also been met with some opposition, with some arguing that it would be too costly or that there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed.
Currently, the Referendum on the Voice is still a proposal, and it has not yet been scheduled. The government has been working on a detailed design and structure of the Voice, and a report was released in December 2020 by the expert panel appointed by the government. The report proposed that the Voice should be legislated and funded by the government, and have the power to make recommendations to the government on policy and legislation that affect Indigenous Australians. The government has committed to consider the report and consult with Indigenous Australians on the design of the Voice, but it's still uncertain when the referendum will take place.
Why Would Australian's Vote Against the Voice Referendum ?
The Voice to Parliament referendum, was put to a vote in the Australian public in 2019, but it did not receive enough support to pass. There were a number of reasons why some Australians may have voted against the Voice referendum. Some of the reasons include:
Lack of understanding: Some Australians may not have fully understood the proposal or its implications, and may have voted against it out of ignorance or confusion.
Fear of change: Some Australians may have been resistant to change and the idea of giving Indigenous peoples a more formal role in the decision-making process, particularly if they had concerns about the potential impact on their own rights and interests.
Political considerations: Some Australians may have voted against the proposal due to the influence of political considerations, such as opposition from political parties or pressure from interest groups.
Skepticism about its effectiveness: Some Australians may have been skeptical about the effectiveness of the proposal in addressing the issues faced by Indigenous peoples, and may have felt that other approaches would be more effective.
Opposing the idea of Indigenous peoples having a separate representation: Some Australians may have opposed the idea of Indigenous peoples having a separate representation in the Parliament, as it would imply a separation and different treatment from the rest of the population.
It's important to note that the reasons for not supporting the Voice referendum are complex and multifaceted. Not all of them are based on racism or discrimination. It also important to note that the proposal was one of many steps needed to address the ongoing injustices faced by Indigenous Australians and to achieve reconciliation.
Why Australian Should Support the Voice
There were a number of reasons why Australians should vote for the Voice referendum. Some of the reasons include:
Recognition of past injustices: Australians have now formally recognised the past injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples, such as the forced removal of children, forced labor, and violence caused by European colonization, and felt that the Voice proposal was an important step in addressing these injustices and achieving reconciliation.
Support for Indigenous self-determination: Some Australians may have supported the idea of Indigenous peoples having a more formal role in decision-making processes that affect them, and believed that the Voice proposal would help to ensure that Indigenous voices and perspectives were heard in the Australian Parliament.
Recognition of Indigenous culture and heritage: Some Australians may have recognised the unique contributions of Indigenous cultures, languages, and heritage to Australian society, and felt that the Voice proposal would help to ensure that these were valued and respected.
Belief in the effectiveness of the proposal: Some Australians may have believed that the Voice proposal would be effective in addressing the issues faced by Indigenous peoples, such as poverty, unemployment, and poor health outcomes.
Support for a more inclusive society: Some Australians may have supported the idea of creating a more inclusive society where all Australians are treated with dignity and respect, and felt that the Voice proposal would help to achieve this.
It's important to note that the reasons for supporting the Voice referendum are also complex and multifaceted, and not all of them are based on a sense of moral responsibility or a belief in social justice.
In conclusion, the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians has had a devastating impact on the lives of Indigenous Australians and their communities. The legacy of this mistreatment can be seen in the high rates of poverty, poor health outcomes, and limited access to education and employment opportunities that Indigenous Australians continue to experience today. Intergenerational trauma is a key factor in these negative outcomes, and it highlights the importance of addressing the historical and ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous Australians.
Saying sorry means little, unless we follow up with action.
One important step in addressing the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians is the proposed referendum on the Voice. The Voice would establish a permanent Indigenous body to advise the government on Indigenous affairs. This body would allow Indigenous Australians to have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives and communities, and it would be a significant step towards self-determination and reconciliation.
It is crucial that we all recognise and acknowledge the harm that has been done to Indigenous Australians and take concrete steps to address it. This includes supporting programs that promote self-determination and improve social and economic outcomes for Indigenous Australians, as well as working towards a national Indigenous Voice. Only by taking these steps can we hope to close the gap in life expectancy, educational achievement, and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and to begin to heal the intergenerational trauma that has been inflicted on Indigenous communities.