Newslines Radio: Working together to heal the past
The process of healing and reconciliation is something that governments, peak bodies and individuals are all working together towards.
Newslines Radio spoke to Stolen Generations member Fay Clayton and Healing Foundation chair Florence Onus to find out their views on the healing journey.
In this program you will hear Fay talk about how significant the Australian Government’s Apology to the Stolen Generations was for her and the many other women who grew up with her at the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home.
She also talks about the need for Constitutional Recognition as the next step Australia should to take in the healing process.
Florence agrees with Fay and tells Newslines that if we really want to Close the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage then healing has to come first.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of healing and reconciliation and offers a range of counseling, family tracing and reunion services through the Social and Emotional Wellbeing program
- Nathan Ramsay
- Florence Onus, Healing Foundation chair, QLD
Fay Clayton, former Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home resident, NSW
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Today we’re looking at how the healing journey is continuing for members of the Stolen Generations and their families and what action is being taken by government, peak bodies and individuals to help the process.
Fay Clayton was taken from her parents at a very young age and sent to live at Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home in western New South Wales. She has found painting a therapeutic way of dealing with her past.
A series of Fay’s artworks were on display as part of the healing weekend held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the home. She told Newslines that painting had always been an important healing tool for her.
CLAYTON: It was a healing journey, just sitting there painting. Cause I done 20 paintings, 200 boomerangs, 11 walking sticks and nine clocks. It was all based on the journey of going and being in the homes.
PRESENTER: Fay says the Australian Government’s Apology to the Stolen Generations, delivered by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008, was an important step forward in the healing process.
CLAYTON: Because it did mend some of the hurts, the sorry and how much it meant to us girls, that he took part of our heart and he healed it by saying sorry.
PRESENTER: Now, four years on from the Apology, Fay believes it’s time for Australia to take the next step in the healing journey by providing constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
CLAYTON: I really think it would be. It will, it will allow our people to have a platform to stand on to make sure we’ve all got all the support we need.
PRESENTER: Indigenous constitutional recognition is one of the many actions being called for by the Healing Foundation, a national representative body established on the first anniversary of the Apology. It funds community based healing programs around the country, provides education and training and conducts research into the healing needs of our people.
Here’s Newslines’ Trevor Ellis speaking to Florence Onus, the chair of the Healing Foundation.
ELLIS: Now Florence, the Apology. How significant was it?
ONUS: The Apology that was made by the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had a resounding impact on the whole nation, in particular the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose lives have been traumatised by suffering the pain and hurt of forced removal policies and the impact that had on families and generations of people. It was the first step in the journey of healing.
ELLIS: How did it contribute to that healing and what are the next steps?
ONUS: Well it’s like any relationship or any wrong doing, if someone has caused you a lot of pain and suffering the first step in healing is to say sorry. The next step is about action, so that’s what the Apology was about. It was saying sorry to all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose lives have been destroyed, traumatised and suffering still today from those impacts. And now the response of establishing the Healing Foundation is part of the process; it is the action that we must take individually and in partnership together to encourage our people and the journey of healing.
PRESENTER: Florence told Newslines that in order for us to successfully Close the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage, healing has to come first.
ONUS: Because we’re never going to achieve the statistics that we’re looking for in regards to raising the number of people in employment, training, education, all those statistics, unless people are healed first. Because if a child is sick they do not have the capacity to learn and that impacts their ability to have a good education and therefore secure a good job and be economically independent. So unless that child or that person is healed first, it is very difficult for them to continue on and fulfil their own goals and purposes in life.
PRESENTER: Trevor also asked Florence what role constitutional recognition might play as the next step in the journey towards healing and reconciliation.
ONUS: Constitutional recognition is a part of that healing journey as well, because it’s also acknowledging that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were here long before the British came or the First Fleet, long before the invasion. So constitutional reform and recognition is very, very important as part of that healing journey.
ELLIS: Now Florence why is talking about the past and educating people about Stolen Generations showing a commitment to ensure this never happens again?
ONUS: History has to be talked about and acknowledged because the past informs the future. How can we learn if we don’t have something to learn from? The past can inform the future around policy and positive changes for our people and for reconciliation in this country so that one day we can move forward as a country and not be divided as we are.
We hope that by telling the history, telling the stories, holding those stories of the past to learn from them for the future, will change that in generations to come, so that one day, all of our children and our grandchildren will stand together and proudly say, “I am an Australian”.
PRESENTER: To find out more about how the Australian Government is working to support the healing journey of Stolen Generations members and their families, check out the links on our website, Indigenous.gov.au. And don’t forget to visit us on Facebook.
I’m Nathan Ramsay, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.