How to start healing

We acknowledge and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the Traditional Owners /Custodians and Elders both past and present on whose lands this site is reaching.


The Australian Government, through the Closing the Gap initiative, recognises that there is inequality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of the population.

Inequality is real. Indigenous Australians have a shorter life expectancy, have a higher infant mortality rate, generally have poorer health, and have fewer opportunities due to lower education and employment levels.


Intergenerational trauma and unresolved trauma

You might have heard the terms intergenerational trauma and unresolved trauma.

Trauma refers to how a person feels after a terrible event in their life. The death of a loved one, break-up of family or relationships, removal from family and land, or living with violence are considered traumatic events for most people.

The term trauma is used to describe how these experiences affect people.

Unresolved trauma is when people are hurting about something and haven’t had a chance to deal with it. It comes out in bad and destructive ways: anger, depression, sadness, drugs and grog, gambling and even violence. These things can lead to bigger problems, and can affect how likely someone is to get a job, stay in school or stay in a stable relationship.

Intergenerational trauma is when the pain (the trauma) is carried over from one generation to the next. When one generation is hurting and hasn’t made it better, the pain can get passed on to next generation. That generation can then grow up with similar troubles as the previous generation. If they don’t deal with it, they can then pass it onto the next generation, and so on.


What is cultural trauma?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia have experienced trauma as a result of colonisation, including loss of culture and land, as well as subsequent policies such as the forced removal of children. In many Indigenous families and communities, this trauma continues to be passed from generation to generation with devastating effects. Research shows that people who experience trauma are more likely to engage in behaviours that are harmful to wellbeing, develop life-style diseases and enter and are over-represented in the criminal justice system.


What is healing and why is it important?

Unresolved trauma and intergenerational trauma directly affects health and wellbeing. However, you can help make things better, not just for yourself, but also for the next generation. One way to improve is through traditional healing.

Healing is the idea that pain and trauma comes from how traditional roles and knowledge have broken down, been taken away, or have been lost. This pain and trauma is seen as the cause of poor physical health, mental health troubles, low self-esteem, violence, grog and drug use, self-harm and suicide, and more.

In traditional healing, fixing the hurt happens by reconnecting with family, culture and traditional ways. This happens through the local community.

So how does it work?


No two healing programs are the same.

Healing takes place in many places, including dedicated healing centres and family support and resource centres. It also happens in a range of other places, like ceremonies and rituals, art groups, support groups for grog or drugs, and others.


For me healing has been a life-long journey. I was a part of the stolen generation. I grew up on Palm Island in a dormitory and from a young age I thought I had lost my family and my culture. It was traumatic. Still today I carry the scars of that trauma. Healing for me started when I reconnected with my family and my culture. I was 18 years old when I left the Island. Now I am an elder of my family and I am strong. Every day I heal, every day I reflect on my life. It was hard and sad for me as a child. I use art to express the loss I felt. It helps me heal, and my culture and family keep me strong.

Flynn Wallace, Jirrabal Elder, Atherton Tablelands


The Healing Foundation, an organisation that’s very active in helping people heal, gives the following example of what happens in a healing programme in one of its reports on Men’s Business.

  • Healing activities: including trauma healing, yarning circles, counselling, breathe and relax exercises, music meditation, art activities, manual arts / work, bush walking, camping, cultural activities and self-esteem building.
  • Drug education: including alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, ice awareness education.
  • Relationships and communication education: including respectful relationships, recognising abusive relationships, communication in relationships, managing anger, problem solving, life planning.
  • Parenting: including parenting skills, husband and wife relationships, parent and child relationships, guidance, safety, healthy families and home budgeting.
  • Health work: including healthy living, healthy food and nutrition, hygiene, living skills such as cooking and cleaning.
  • Work and employment: including adult numeracy and literacy, career and training advice and job-ready training.
  • Mentoring programs: many of the men have had no father figure in their life and could be supported through positive role modelling.


Need help? Find a support service in northern Queensland. Check up on how you’ve been feeling by doing a depression and anxiety test. Join the online mental health forum and talk to others like you.


We are committed to working with, engaging and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in culturally safe ways. We are committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to access and utilise culturally appropriate and respectful information about mental health and wellbeing. We are committed to providing information and support that is professional and respectful of the client at all times.