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Timely call for health reform to support healing for the Stolen Generations

Introduction by Croakey: The Healing Foundation is urging the Federal Government to implement its recommendations for a universal Healing Card for Stolen Generations survivors, modelled on the existing “Gold Card” scheme for veterans.

Under proposals submitted by the Healing Foundation for Federal Budget considerations over the past two years, eligible Gold Card holders would have access to all primary healthcare needs to support them to stay out of hospital, all clinically necessary treatment, and supports and services that assist them to live at home including respite services for survivors and their carers. The Gold Card would also enable them to access healing programs that involve family and community.

By implementing the proposal, Federal Aged Care Minister Anika Wells and Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler could make a real difference to the lives of Stolen Generations survivors and their families, Fiona Cornforth, CEO for the Healing Foundation, told Croakey today.

In the article below, Professor Steve Larkin, Chair of the Healing Foundation, explains why the Healing Card is needed.


Steve Larkin writes:

Maisie Morrison, 96 years old, is a powerful Noongar woman who has raised eight children and helped establish a number of important Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

Her son, Uncle Jim Morrison, has fought hard all his life for the Stolen Generations and their descendants. A senior Noongar man, his parents and their combined 21 siblings were all stolen and separated as children.

Maisie Morrison is now living in an aged care home in Perth. But it’s not one run by a church, Uncle Jim quickly says. That would bring back too much trauma from her mission days. But even without that added trauma, institutional life is a trigger for her, an intergenerational cycle of harm that keeps on turning.

The Stolen Generations survivors were the first of our people to formally participate in a truth telling inquiry, where they put into words the pain and trauma of being separated from their families, community, Country, culture, and language.

Stolen but not silent.

They didn’t just talk about their experiences; they forewarned what would happen if their traumas were not addressed or they did not recover from their trauma.

The Stolen Generations Survivors are ageing. But their needs are still not being met.

Still no systematic response

Despite the 1997 ‘Bringing them Home’ report, the 2008 National Apology to the Stolen Generations, and many other inquiries, there has still been no systematic government response to the needs and rights of Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants.

Stolen Generations survivors have endured a lifetime of trauma, grief and loss, and as a result they carry a significant burden of health, wellbeing, social, and economic disadvantage. They are growing older, and many live with disabilities and complex health problems, including poor mental health. They have increasingly complex and overlapping needs yet face personal and systemic barriers to accessing services.

Analysis from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare shows that, compared to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Stolen Generations survivors are more than 4.5 times as likely to have kidney disease, over three times as likely to have diabetes and 2.7 times as likely to have heart, stroke, or vascular disease. There is a ‘gap within the gap’, across life outcomes.

This is an extraordinary cost on people’s lives.

Two years ago, The Healing Foundation commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to study the impact of forced removal on the health costs of Stolen Generations survivors and descendants. According to Deloitte, the costs of providing services amounted to an additional $277.5 million of financial health costs and $2.1 billion of lost quality of life costs — in 2019 alone.

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generation, delivered by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It’s also the year that Stolen Generations survivors are all aged 50 and over, and eligible for aged care and aged services. Yet as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety reported, there is a low uptake of aged care services across the board for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to fear of culturally unsafe care and poor experiences with institutions in the past.

Our Make Healing Happen report, published in 2021, told us that lack of knowledge about the impact of removal on Stolen Generations survivors means that many people in the aged care system are unaware of the trauma survivors have and continue to experience.

Waiting lists are long for the relatively few existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled aged care services.

Other services risk re-traumatising Stolen Generations survivors as they grow older. The assessment process is particularly daunting, with the workforce yet to apply trauma aware and healing informed know-how in their interactions with our elderly.

We need services that support ageing well – that help keep our survivors healthy, connected to culture, family and community. Most importantly, they must do no further harm.

Elder Care

To that end, The Healing Foundation is urging the Federal Government to support trauma-aware, healing-informed aged care services.

We know that when we restore aspects of culture that keep us safe and well, we are better able to heal. Uncle Jim calls it Elder Care versus aged care.

Stolen Generations survivors also need access to services that help them stay well in community. We are therefore urging the Government to grant the Stolen Generations the respect they deserve, by introducing a Healing Card, modelled on the Veterans Gold card.

Just like the Gold card, it would entitle the cardholder to complete primary care needs to help keep them out of hospital, for all clinically necessary treatment, and supports and services that assist them to live at home, including respite and healing services for their carers.

The theme for this week’s National Reconciliation Week, is: Be a Voice for Generations.

The Stolen Generation survivors forewarned what would happen if their trauma experiences were not addressed or they did not recover from their trauma.

Stolen but not silent.

More than a quarter of a century on, the clock is ticking.

It’s time we listen. It’s time we act.

• See the Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Healing Card Proposal.


See Croakey’s archive of articles on the Stolen Generations

 

 

 

 

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