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How colonisation has hurt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ social and emotional wellbeing

Many mental health issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are connected to experiences of disadvantage, discrimination and the overwhelming grief and trauma that are a result of the past systematic removal of children and destruction of communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are underpinned by connectedness. In addition to regarding physical health, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing as indivisible, many Indigenous Australians see the individual as inseparable from the family and the community. Connections to country and to ancestors are also seen as essential foundations for strong health and wellbeing (Queensland Health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Strategy 2016-2021).

The mental and physical health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders continues to be challenged by the impact of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage at the individual, family and community levels. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders fare significantly worse than other Queenslanders on every indicator of economic and social disadvantage, and experience multiple stressors that are pre-determinants of mental health problems and substance use. These factors affect physical health as well as mental health, and in order to close the gap in life expectancy and other key health indicators, urgent attention is needed both to improve social and emotional wellbeing at the community level and to address severe mental illness and substance use disorders at the individual level.

Practice prompt

Watch Our Future Our Way — Talking Aboriginal Trauma

In this webinar, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver talks about intergenerational trauma, discrimination and oppression being another way to describe mental health issues in Aboriginal communities. Watch video from 43:20 minutes.

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