Public Release: 

Healing precedes a positive future for indigenous Australians

Research Australia

The Australian Government should form a National Indigenous Healing Foundation to provide compensation to the stolen generations.

The call will be made at this weekend's Australia 2020 Summit by Professor Fiona Stanley, who heads Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, in conjunction with Associate Professor Colleen Hayward, who leads the Institute's Aboriginal Kulunga Research Network.

"The future for Indigenous Australians is profoundly affected by the actions of the past," Professor Stanley said. "We need a process for collective healing of inter-generational trauma so that Indigenous people can look with some confidence to the future.

"We can't get past the issues of substance and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, child abuse and neglect and poor health outcomes unless we are prepared to tackle the root issues."

Professor Stanley said the Healing Foundation concept is based on evidence from Canada where significant funds were invested in a range of activities such as Indigenous healing centres and community initiated activities. The Canadian Aboriginal Healing Foundation is run by Aboriginal leaders and has spent $450M over the last 11 years, with excellent evaluation and results.

Associate Professor Hayward, a senior Noongar woman, said a Healing Foundation should support activities such as youth-elder community workshops and conferences; practical support of traditional ceremony and cultural business; traditional healing; individual counselling; youth leadership programs; family counselling; parenting and nutrition education; and supported residential options for young people.

"The lessons from Canada are compelling. Every Indigenous child, whether they were removed from their family or not, has suffered the consequences of the breakdown of their communities and support structures. A proper healing process is not only compassionate, but cost effective," she said.

The economic evaluation of the community healing centres in Canada showed that funding of healing as an alternative to incarceration was cost-effective and lowered recidivism rates with each $2 spent on healing saving $6 -$16 of government expenditures on incarceration.

The 2020 Options for the Future of Indigenous Australians stream is being chaired by TICHR board member Dr Jackie Huggins. In addition to Professor Stanley and Associate Professor Hayward, TICHR researchers Adele Cox and Dr Christine Jeffries-Stokes will also participate. Institute researchers Associate Professor Ted Wilkes and Dr Ngaire Brown are participants in the national health strategy stream.

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