Australian Aboriginal people today
A non-Indigenous example of inter-generational trauma
Many Vietnam Veterans were traumatised by their experiences in the Vietnam War and found it difficult to heal from those wounds because their experience was not widely honoured until years later. For some of these men these wounds played out in the form of addiction, alcoholism, violence, suicide, or simply an inability to truly connect with others. Some of their children then, were raised in a traumatic environment – deeply affected by their father’s or mother’s wounds. Those children, then, developed their own wounds which also get played out in addiction, suicide, etc, and so it gets passed down the generations.
One of the big differences between Vietnam Veterans and those from previous wars was that, on their return, their nation as a whole did not acknowledge what they had been through. Because of this, individuals, families and governments have had to explore how to ensure that these wounds are healed, so that the inter-generational impacts of that war of 40 years ago are minimised.
History records that even where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples shared traumatic experiences with other Australians, they often didn’t have the same support extended to them. For example Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans from the first and second world wars were not provided the same entitlements as their fellow diggers such as war pensions and cheap housing loans.
And, like Vietnam Veterans, the fact that the wider community did not know or acknowledge what they had been through has made the healing process very difficult. In many families, inter-generational trauma has been the result.