Indigenous People: Intergenerational Healing
Before colonization, Indigenous Australians has lived in Victoria for 50,000 years. They were free and have a strong cultural identity and connection to their land. They speak many languages and have a healthy lifestyle based on hunter-gatherer culture and which involves physical work and their diet was fresh foods (VACCHO, 2020).
After colonization, Indigenous population in Victoria reduced from 60,000 to 2,000 due to battle with the settlers, lack of resistance to European illness, lack of freedom and loss of identity, loss of their land and forced to relocate and sudden change in their way of life. Indigenous people were devastated and emotionally depressed because of massacres, their spiritual beliefs taken away and set in a Christian mission, as a result of initial violence, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, drug use, alcohol misuse and smoking increased among the Indigenous community (VACCHO, 2020).
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The Government policy of Protection (1869) and Assimilation Policy (1951-1962) under the name of protection boards removed thousands of Indigenous children from their families and put them in white families or Christian missions. When the children turn 18 forced to disseminate into the white society and these children known as the Stolen Generations. The physical, emotional and sexual abuse left a lifetime impact on the health and well-being of the Stolen Generations (VACCHO, 2020). The children forcefully removed from their family weakened their indigenous identity and Indigenous cultural traditions. Their education level is limited, not even finished high school due to that they were less likely to be employed, they experienced an unstable living condition which as a result leads to an unstable relationship with their partners (Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997).
The gap in Indigenous health is directly related to their past physical and psychological trauma, ongoing racism and discrimination and intergenerational trauma, as well as other social health determinants such as poor diet, physically inactive, low education, low employment, low income, housing affordability and poor sanitation and drainage system subject to poor health and that, lead to 10.6 years less life expectancy for Indigenous males born between 2015 and 2017 and about 8 to 9 years less for females than non-Indigenous population (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2020).
To close the health gap, it is important to understand what health means to Aboriginal people. Health is not only a physical illness; it is the cultural, spiritual and emotional well-being of an individual, their families and the whole community. Therefore, various solutions have been implemented by the Aboriginal community to address the health needs of Aboriginal people in a holistic and culturally safe manner. These include the establishment of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organization (VACCHO) and community healing centres run by the Healing Foundation. VACCHO is a member of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO) and which represents 100 per cent Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organizations. To address the health needs of each local Aboriginal community group operates at a community level. Currently, there are 25 locally owned Aboriginal Community controlled Health Organizations across Victoria (VACCHO, 2020). Community healing centres also provide culturally safe and health services to the Aboriginal community, particularly to those members of the Stolen Generations and their families, aimed to help their mental health, emotional wellbeing and spiritually and to support them through their healing process. In 2017/2018 the Healing Foundation supported 170 Stolen Generations members who took part in collective healing projects (Healing Foundation, 2018).
Aboriginal-led health organizations such as the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization and healing centres run by the Healing Foundation are vital to close to the health inequality among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Culturally safe and health care services delivered by Aborigines to Aborigines play a significant role on decolonization of the mainstream health by allowing self-determination, as these organizations are run and managed by Aborigines, Advocates for Aborigines health equality by providing access to health services, capacity building through health promotion and education and creating employment to the community. As these organization run and work for the Aboriginal community which gives confidence and builds trust in the health services, so this increases access to the health services and creates strong connections among the Aboriginal community (VACCHO, 2020).
The Healing Foundation supports group healing projects which were planned to meet the specific healing needs to the Stolen Generations members by giving them access to healing groups, connecting them with other survivors. Sharing their stories help many Stolen Generations members and it also plays a significant role in intergenerational healing (Healing Foundation, 2018).