The doctor’s office can be a vulnerable experience, and for those of the Stolen Generations, the experience can be particularly uncomfortable. However, the launch of a new set of resources is working towards improving the support general practitioners, dentists and aged care providers give to Stolen Generations survivors interacting with their services.

Launched on December 5 by Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, the resources are a combined creation from the Healing Foundation, who worked with Stolen Generations survivors and peak bodies to create the resource set, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian Dental Association, Aged and Community Services Australia and the Aged Care Industry Association.

The resources were inspired by research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2016 that identified 17,000 Stolen Generations survivors in Australia, noting that by 2023 all will be aged over 50 and eligible for aged care.

Chair of The Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group, Ian Hamm, said the research highlighted the health standards, access and taking up of health services, dental services and aged care services of Aboriginal people, in particular Stolen Generations survivors.

“One of the real issues for people is having to go back into spaces where they felt uncomfortable or unsafe, particularly aged care services which are often residential. Which was to a lot of people what they had experienced as children, so the issue of re-traumatisation became a real one,” Mr Hamm said.

“In terms of access to medical and dental services, when you go and seek those [services] you are in a vulnerable situation anyway – one of the issues that came up was that people felt as though they had to tell their stories again to justify their nervousness of their reluctance to access services.”

The fact sheets and resources are designed to improve mainstream services and increase empathy and understanding.

“You can get lost in the crowd, it’s as simple as that. Those who don’t specialise in dealing with the Aboriginal community, the Stolen Generations is a subset, they look at us all as Aboriginal when that isn’t the case. We are a group within a group within a group, it’s not so much we are forgotten, we are just not thought of in the first place.”

“That is why this is important, to raise the issue that this is a group that has needs, within a larger group that has needs. This isn’t easy stuff; it is hard and it is difficult but we shouldn’t shy away from [it] … and [it’s] something we can’t walk away from simply because it might be hard.”

Far from the end of this project, plans are underway for the development of resources for hospitals, allied health professionals and disability services.

“There is always more work we want to do … access to housing services, access to associated health services or allied health services,” Mr Hamm said.0

Mr Hamm said being part of the development of the resources within the Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group has been a powerful experience and one that gives him hope for his people.

“The circumstances of my removal, compared to others, I have done okay … I have fortunate circumstances compared to others, I have an obligation to use my circumstances to support others who were by far not so fortunate,” he said.

“And I can’t bear the thought of people having a rubbish life through no fault of their own, other than having to be born a particular race, as in our case Aboriginal.”

The resources are part of the Healing Foundation’s Action Plan for Healing project, funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2017 following the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Bringing them Home report.

The suite of fact sheets and resources can be downloaded from:

By Rachael Knowles