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Indigenous Student/Teacher Identity and Wellbeing

Naomi Wharton

University of Notre Dame, Fremantle


Degeneration Impact in Aboriginal Youth’s Identity and Wellbeing by the Stolen


The forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their communities known as the

Stolen Generation left a scar on Aboriginal people and culture in Australia. Has had

an enormous de-generational impact in terms of identity and wellbeing “affecting

those originally removed and those to come” (Priest, McKean, Davis, Waters and

Briggs, 2012.). Mitchell (2007) claims inequalities in Aboriginal health can be drawn

back to history, understood in the context of colonial times and the forcible

dispossession (Priest et al., 2012.) However, Hunter (2002) argues this view is

distorted and in blaming the inheritance distress of ancestors for wellbeing denies

the organic such as substances, family environments and disorders. “Contemporary

understandings of Indigenous mental health are confused and conflicted” (Hunter,

2002.) Hunter (2002) fails to accept the connectedness of dysfunctional family to the

cultural genocide, contradictive to Priest et al. (2012) arguing dysfunction, racism,

suicide and abuse spawned from history of the Stolen Generation. In working in East

Kalgoorlie Primary with pre-kindergartens one student’s remark when being told not

to strike another student was “but my mum hits my dad?” Primary evidence to linking

a dysfunctional family link to children’s development influence by its parents. It also

happens that this child’s parents disagree in the schooling of their child. Commonly

this mistrustful ideology of western figures of authority such as teachers and police is

because of the Stolen Generation (Priest et al., 2012.)

The Stolen generation took place throughout the 1900s. Today, in 2017, cultural

assimilation is often dismissed as a past time by many Westerners. That the solution

of ongoing grief was subsided by Kevin Rudd’s national apology in 2008 on February

the 13th. An ignorance of ancestral trauma and grief is due to the lack of

understanding of the Indigenous people’s cultural importance of their dead, spirits,

family, community and connectedness to country (Human Rights and Equal

Opportunity Commission, 2010.) All in which were violated in the abduction of

aboriginal children into Anglo- Australian settings. This lack in understanding and

view of reconciliation as a state rather than a process fogs awareness of racism

prevalence today. An underlying racism, the ‘us and them’ mentality, is detrimental to

Aboriginal youth’s identity diffusion (TEXT.) Immersions, higher levels of education

and the social multicultural integration are proactive steps that can really progress

reconciliation (Priest et al., 2012.) This to me is this just a continuation of cultural

assimilation. Complete Reconciliation requires radical reassessment of how the

education departments conducts of learning, for it to conform to both western and

indigenous cultural values and traditions.

All adolescents pass through a period of psychological moratorium, an exploration

of oneself. The loss of culture from stolen generation has been seen in the extinction

of languages, tradition and stories, diminishing Aboriginal culture. Hoffnung et al.

(2016) claims many aboriginal youth today find themselves suspended between

traditional and modern identities, leaving them with a heightened risk of ‘negative

identity’ following risk of antisocial behaviour and misbehaviour. Delinquency among

aboriginal youths is at a disturbing rate (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007.) An

identity crisis in disguised as crime and treated as crime will not break this cycle of

poor wellbeing. Breaking this cycle “both an ethical responsibility and as a means of

addressing health inequalities and combating systemic, interpersonal and

internalised racism” (Priest et al., 2012.) A point, Hunter (2002), can agree with. That

there is a mutual obligation to relieve the burden of mental health on Aboriginal

communities, whether it is due to a forced conformity to the western world or not.



Hoffnung, M., Hoffnung, R., Seifert, K., Burton Smith, R., Hine, A., Ward, L., &

Pausé, C. (2016). Lifespan development, (3 rd edition.) Wiley & Sons.

Hunter, E. (2002). ‘Best intentions’ lives on: untoward health outcomes of some

contemporary initiatives in indigenous affairs. Australian & New Zealand Journal of

Psychiatry, 36(4) 575–584. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1612.2001.01040.x

Priest, N., Mackean, T., Davis, E., Waters, E. & Briggs, L (2012). Strengths and

challenges for Koori kids: Harder for Koori kids, Koori kids doing well - exploring

Aboriginal perspectives on social determinants of Aboriginal child health and

wellbeing. Health Sociology Review: The Journal of the Health Section of the

Australian Sociological Association. 21(2) 165-179. Jun 2012: 165-179.;dn=740557051425250;res=IELHEA

Discussion Questions

1. To restore Aboriginal confidence in education and enhance further academic

achievement can adopt an equal contribution to Aboriginal learning styles and

western learning styles in one classroom? Or would it be more effective to have

separate classrooms with western styles to Indigenous Australian style? Do the

positives outweigh the negatives?

2. Is the colonial settlement and stolen generation impact on Aboriginal youth’s wellbeing

reversible? Does it require the Aboriginal culture to return to its’s traditional roaming sense

without concepts of ownership or the money system in the future or to what degree of

compromising of its traditional culture will it entail? Will continued assimilation/compromising

diverge the culture into a whole new modern culture where there is no trace of ancestral

influence impacting wellbeing?