Australia’s stolen generations survivors experienced ‘retriggered’ trauma during Covid lockdown | Stolen generations

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Australia’s stolen generations survivors felt more disconnected from their communities, lonely and isolated during Covid lockdowns, with many finding the experience re-triggered their trauma, new research suggests.

Survivors also experienced an increased decline in both physical and mental health, the Healing Foundation found after examining the impact of the coronavirus and the public health response.

The foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that works with communities to address the ongoing trauma stolen generation survivors experience.

The research found the necessary and swift public health response to protect First Australians also created “unprecedented disruption to cultural practices and normal relational and collective practices” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, leaving people feeling vulnerable and disconnected from their community.

Foundation chief executive Fiona Cornforth said the research was carried out to assist future governments in pandemic planning “to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in the community”.

“The excellent work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on Covid-19 – as part of national efforts guided by the national cabinet – ensured that infection rates were very low in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations,” she said.

“There were only minor outbreaks and they were quickly contained. [But] physical distancing restrictions meant traditional celebrations and ceremonies, such as births and funerals, could not occur. Being disconnected from family during sorry business and being unable to attend community functions or cultural gatherings such as Naidoc week was really challenging, especially for stolen generations survivors.

“Isolation and loneliness, the inability to be with family, and strict government controls brought disturbing memories back for some survivors and re-triggered trauma.”

The pilot study looked at 23 social and emotional wellbeing indicators and was based on 60 responses.

It found almost all the stolen generations survivors who responded had “significantly increased sense of isolation and loneliness”, with more than 90% of respondents reporting an increased sense of isolation, and 80% reporting an increase in loneliness.

Some 90% also reported feeling disconnected from their community, family and culture, while 77% of respondents felt disconnected from country.

“This is particularly concerning given the degree to which connection to family, community, culture and country enhances health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and all the more for stolen generations descendants,” Cornforth said.

“It’s not surprising therefore, that 66% of respondents reported a decline in their physical health during Covid-19, 75% reported a decline in mental health and wellbeing, and 66% reported a decreased ability to cope with stress.”

How safe stolen generations survivors felt was also impacted – with more than three-quarters of respondents worried during the pandemic about how they would be able to travel, including half concerned with how they were to receive medical treatment or other related services during the pandemic.

The research contextualised the findings in light of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had already experienced, particularly survivors of the stolen generations who lived with the memory of government policies that forcibly removed children from their families.

“While this is a small pilot study, there is evidence to support a broader and more in-depth study to ensure the needs, risks and vulnerabilities of stolen generations survivors and their descendants are better understood and met when future restrictions are imposed,” the researchers concluded.

“How can technology and social media be used to not only communicate important public health messages but also feelings of isolation? How can such technologies be used to connect stolen generations survivors to family, community, culture and country? What is the reach of technologies like social media for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and stolen generations survivors in particular? If such restrictions are unavoidable and have a negative impact on a person’s healing journey, what strategies or policies can be put in place to counterbalance negative impacts?

“Most importantly, considering their findings, what do stolen generations survivors need right now as Australia emerges from restrictions that have impacted them so seriously?”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Australia’s stolen generations survivors experienced ‘retriggered’ trauma during Covid lockdown | Stolen generations

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