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Transgenerational trauma…
Is created when layers upon layers of trauma are experienced by individuals, or collectively by a community.  
It is when trauma is experienced repeatedly, so negative behaviours begin to manifest because there is no opportunity to engage in a healing process.


transgenerational trauma

Transgenerational trauma began at the point of colonisation and continued through the years with assimilation and Stolen Generations policies.  All of these experiences greatly affected the wellbeing of Aboriginal Peoples, and still impact on our Peoples today.


Our Aboriginal history, Dreaming and Dreamtime was once passed down orally from family members who were charged with the responsibility and privilege of knowing the “stories”.  As a consequence of dispossession and Stolen Generations, we have lost much of our history and therefore the ability to talk through our stories with each other.


With the loss of family and cultural beliefs, our Aboriginal People have lost their ability to debrief, or to have the opportunity to talk through events that have been affecting their lives.  There was once structure in place to manage trauma and events in traditional ways were no longer accessible to most Aboriginal Peoples and families.

Ceremonies and rituals that were once practiced to support families and clans in managing traumatic events were lost.  What were our people to do with the emotional pain and loss they were suffering?  How did Aboriginal people talk about what was happening to them?  In most cases local languages were prohibited and practising of traditional customs could lead to death or at the very least removal from their families.


Transgenerational trauma is created when layers upon layers of trauma are experienced by individuals, or collectively by a community.  It is when trauma is experienced repeatedly, so negative behaviours begin to manifest because there is no opportunity to engage in a healing process.


These behaviours can vary from physical ailments through to emotional, social and wellbeing issues.  When a person is unable to heal from their trauma, negative behaviours can manifest as a coping mechanism, and can often begin to affect their children, families, and communities. A ripple effect begins that has the capacity to travel through generations.

Transgenerational Trauma is not unlike Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many Aboriginal Peoples have lived for generations in a total state of PTSD, never having the chance to heal their past, because the present is still a similar experience for them.


Imagine for a moment being a child and living within a community that is on constant alert for strangers.  Imagine that the strangers had the power to “legally” kill you and your family, or at the very least have the authority to forcibly remove you from your home and land – for no reason except for the colour of your skin.


Imagine that you survive and some years later you have children, and now you are in constant fear of someone being able to legally take your children – for no reason except the colour of their skin.


Imagine some years later those children grow up – they are dispossessed of land and culture, and even if they were lucky enough not to be taken and assimilated, who now teaches them traditional values and beliefs?

In today’s society transgenerational trauma still continues in the forms of deaths in custody and can also be highlighted by the disproportionate number of Aboriginal children in care.


The objective of this story is not to place blame on people or make people feel sad, however. What is intended, is to make us think at a deeper level about how our histories – regardless of being black, white or any other colour – impact on our present-day lives and those of futures generations.


Until a few generations ago, ceremony, rites and traditional teachings were handed down orally by the “Keepers” of such knowledge.  Who now teaches each generation their parenting skills, and their responsibilities within a community, when their experiences until now have just been to survive?


If you think for a moment about your own personal values and belief systems – where did they come from?  Most likely these originated from your family or your community. The “norms” of the day were created within the neighbourhood and guided your values and beliefs.

 “It’s different things for different people, but it’s the unresolved wounds,
or wounds where the hurt  hasn’t been resolved.
It’s the continuation of practicing behaviours which that hurt  causes,
to the generations to come”…
Aunty Nancy Walke


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