Stolen, now suffering
A new federal government report finds that members of the Stolen Generations suffer chronically poor levels of physical and mental health.
When Australian authorities removed generations of Indigenous children from their families between 1910 and 1970, they justified their actions by arguing Indigenous children would have better lives and opportunities in white society.
If anyone still needed evidence this official argument was nonsense, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found members of the Stolen Generation are suffering chronically poor levels of physical and mental health.
The 17,000 members of the Stolen Generations living across Australia today have “higher levels of adversity in relation to most of the 38 key health and welfare outcomes analysed in the report,” said Professor Steve Larkin, chair of The Healing Foundation Board, the organisation that commissioned the report.
“Even compared to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the same age group, who are already at a disadvantage, Stolen Generations members are suffering more,” said Professor Larkin, a former social worker.
The report found that compared to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the same age group, members of the Stolen Generations are three times more likely to have been incarcerated in the last five years. They are also almost twice as likely to rely on government payments, and 1.5 times more likely to experience poor mental health. And they are more likely to suffer chronic health conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
“For the first time, we have comprehensive data to illustrate a direct link between poor health and welfare outcomes and the forced removal of tens of thousands of children from their families,” said Professor Larkin. “We can also see the ongoing impact on subsequent generations.”
Professor Larkin said the level of disadvantage outlined in the report was appalling but should not come as a surprise. “The Stolen Generations were denied a proper education or a decent wage, which put them at a financial loss right from the start. But more fundamentally, they endured significant childhood trauma when they were taken from their families, isolated, institutionalised and often abused.
“If people don’t have an opportunity to heal from trauma, it continues to impact on the way they think and behave, which can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including poor health, substance abuse, suicide and violence.”
The report is the first step in The Healing Foundation’s Action Plan for Healing project, which the federal government funded last year.
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