Focus Topics

topic 2 | Activity 10: Trauma, healing and resilience

Dispossession of land, population displacement, prejudice in everyday life and outright discrimination have, over the subsequent generations, resulted in Indigenous Australians being disadvantaged to the extreme and denied the chance to share in the benefits of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Kapuscinski 1

The effects of colonisation – disadvantage, dislocation and discrimination – are still having an impact on Australian Indigenous peoples every day. Despite the fact that those who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander make up a relatively small percentage of the Australian population (3.5%), they are over-represented in many key indicators of disadvantage.2

This disadvantage is often spoken about in the various initiatives aimed at ‘closing the gap’. Moving forward together to build a better future for all Australians means that our shared history and the trauma it has caused, and continues to cause, needs to be openly acknowledged.

This means recognising that:

  • The land we live on, and prosper from, was previously inhabited by Indigenous peoples, and their displacement was not founded on mutual agreement
  • The social and economic impacts of invasion, dispossession, marginalisation and control of Indigenous peoples have accumulated across generations
  • This impact has been amplified by policies and practices that have systematically disadvantaged Indigenous peoples
  • In many instances, this has resulted in the transmission of poverty, poor health and other forms of disadvantage from generation to generation
  • Indigenous peoples have courageously resisted and sought to overcome adversity generation after generation after generation. Australians Together3

In situations where people do not have an opportunity to heal from trauma, they are likely to unknowingly pass it on to other family members and loved ones, especially children. Children can experience difficulties with attachment, disconnection from their extended families and culture and high levels of stress from family and community members who are dealing with the impacts of trauma.

Key Video Resource – Intergenerational Trauma (4:02)

This animated video, developed by the Healing Foundation, explains how intergenerational trauma is impacting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities.4

Check the thinking points below for some questions to consider with regard to this video.


Trauma-aware, healing-informed approach to care

Australian Indigenous peoples are becoming aware of the trauma that affects their everyday lives and starting their healing journeys. Trauma-aware, healing-informed care is strengths-based approach to healing that is based on knowledge and understanding of, and a responsiveness to the way that trauma affects people’s lives. Effective healing programs are those that are designed in partnership with communities and guided by an understanding of their unique experiences and healing needs. Healing programs can strengthen the connections that people have with culture and community, and supports health and wellbeing.

  1. Reflect on the impacts of ongoing trauma outlined in this section and note the ways that your understanding of the health and wellbeing of Australian Indigenous peoples has changed as you have engaged with this content.
  2. Watch the video resource ‘Intergenerational Trauma’ and consider the imagery and storytelling used in the video. How do these support your understanding of what health and wellbeing means for Australian Indigenous peoples, and the strengths of these cultures?
  3. Go to the Healing Foundation website and spend some time reviewing their resources. Reflect on what you have learned about the trauma-aware, healing-informed approach to care.
  1. Kapuscinski, C.A., Indigenous disadvantage in an historical perspective: the evidence of the last thirty years, in Australian Conference of Economists. 2013: Perth.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Indigenous Australians Overview. 2020; Available from:
  3. Australians Together. Our History. 2020; Available from:
  4. Healing Foundation. Intergenerational Trauma Animation. 2018; Available from: