Beyond Public Acknowledgement to Action: The Role of Government in Supporting Recovery from Trauma for Indigenous People as a Result of Past Policies of Forcible Separation and Assimilation

International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume III, Issue I, January 2019 | ISSN 2454–6186

Beyond Public Acknowledgement to Action: The Role of Government in Supporting Recovery from Trauma for Indigenous People as a Result of Past Policies of Forcible Separation and Assimilation

Karen Menzies

University of Western Sydney, Cooks Hill, NSW, Australia

Ten years have passed since Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered his famous apology to the generations of Indigenous Australians who were removed from their families and communities when they were children as the result of racist and ill-informed government policy guided by the principles of assimilation (Russell, 2018). At this time, the importance of acknowledgement and formal government apology was becoming better understood, not only in Australia but also in other colonized nations, as essential to public understanding of the collective, historical and intergenerational trauma that exists within Indigenous communities and facilitating healing (operationalized by the Australian government as improvement in health, education and employment outcomes). Formal acknowledgement opens the way for the nation to bear witness to its shared national history, and to prioritise government action in response.

The importance of societal endorsement is central to the two fundamental elements in the recovery from trauma. The purpose of ‘public acknowledgement’ seeks to gain public recognition of harm and define the experience or event as trauma at a societal level because the reaction from the wider society has a powerful influence and can ultimately shape the resolution of trauma (Herman, 1992,). The next critical element in the recovery of trauma is ‘community action’ whereby the society takes responsibility for the provision of assistance and support services to aid the recovery (Herman, 1992,). The success of an individual or group’s recovery from trauma can be measured by two things: ‘an accepting climate of public opinion which fosters the integration of trauma survivors and an absence of a rejecting climate of opinions compounding their isolation’ (Herman, 1992, p.71).

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