A Reception for the 4th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Aboriginal and Islander Stolen Generations was commemorated in Canberra with a breakfast at Parliament House, co-hosted by the National Stolen Generations Alliance (NSGA) and National Reconciliation Council of Australia on Monday 13th February 2012, through which I had the good fortune to speak personally with Parliamentarians Rudd, Macklin and Garrett, whereby they agreed to meet at a later date to progress discussions about the issue of Lateral violence and our strategy to have a National Lateral Violence Program implemented across the country.
We will be attempting to meet with the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Minister Evans, in the coming week to discuss the campaign as well.
National Media have also indicated that they want to be kept up to date with the progress of our Lateral Violence Campaign.
The question on all of our lips at the moment is this…
”What is ‘Lateral violence?” and,
“Why does it have to be so long and complex?”
We just want to know what it is about in the least amount of time and space, and in the simplest possible way!
Unfortunately, this type of violence is just that, complex. If we truly want to get to the root of the problem and make sure any attempt we make results in positive change for our families and communities, we are going to have to do the hard yards with this one. And if you think that is bad news, don’t forget the pain and anguish we are all going to confront along the way, but answer me this – Do our children not deserve us to try?
Understanding ‘Lateral violence’ requires us to have the ability to unpack multiple layers of trauma and discover the meaning that lies beneath, and then we need to have the strength and perseverance to continue to do so again and again, just so we can remain true within ourselves as to what must be achieved. This is the only way we will be able to attempt to understand the different levels and the different impacts and effects of the manifestations of ‘Lateral violence’ for each individual within our homes and our Communities.
But it does not stop there, once we have mastered that difficult task, it will again require mammoth amounts of strength and courage to analyse our own behaviors, in an honest and open way, being truthful to one self about the parts in which we may or may not have played in perpetuating or enabling this type of violence. The fact is that we have all been subjected to this type of violence throughout our lifetime. This exposure can leave us behaving in the same way and treating those around us with the same contempt, without us even realising it. The manifestations of ‘Lateral violence’ happen, every single day, all around us, and unfortunately even by us.
What does ‘Lateral violence’ look like in our everyday lives in the here and now of 2012? And how can we go about putting such a difficult subject into practical ways with less well…words? I have not worked that out yet. I will however continue on to give some everyday examples, examples that have been flooding my inbox, telephone and mailbox from people all around this country, sharing their resonation, anguish and despair since the inception of this campaign on the evening of January 23, 2012, in the hope of providing some clarity into the varying depths and levels of manifestations of ‘Lateral violence’.
WORKPLACE BULLYING (Is a manifestation of Lateral violence)
This is occurring in almost every workplace, right across the country no matter what colour you are, or what level you are employed at. Increasing at an alarming rate though, is the amount of Aboriginal and Islander managers and colleagues who are bullying and intimidating their Aboriginal and Islander staff at all levels. The problem here is that we have many senior people in positions of power, and to get there these people have had to fight and claw their way to the top, particularly within Government institutions and their fight was not an easy one. Whilst they may be educated in the ways of Government and be ‘experts’ in their field, or be able to talk the talk to be in these roles, they lack some very basic fundamental management skills. Through years of being conditioned by their peers through poor treatment, they are now unable to see the torment and pain they are inflicting upon others, some causing insurmountable pain and suffering that has unfortunately been leading many of our young ones to attempt suicide and some to have succeeded.
These young people often look up to the Aboriginal and Islander leaders who have made it to the top and try to seek guidance and assistance along the way, only to be treated like half rate citizens and bullied back into some kind of pecking order. These senior Aboriginal and Islander people continue to perpetuate their own victimised behaviour. This ultimately alienates good people who are willing to fight the cause with them and also undermines any attempts and intentions they may hold and are striving towards.
There is an inherent ‘fear’ among this type of manager or leader, a fear that the young ones we are seeing today, who are articulate, educated and intelligent, possess such a talent that requires them to be kept in their place; put into some sort of holding box because they are a threat to the very position and level of power that the manager or leader may themselves hold within the rank of their organisation. The young men and women who have contacted me throughout this campaign are calling out for help. They are sharing their stories of torment, maltreatment, bullying, isolation, intimidation and are pretty much just being mowed down at every opportunity by their own Aboriginal and Islander ‘role models’.
I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, the way we are treating our own people is much more damaging to soul and spirit than what we expect to experience in mainstream. Peers who are too scared about their own stability need to learn to go beyond their limits and start to provide that caring, sharing and nurturing support of our old ways.
RELATIONSHIP MELTDOWNS (Manifestations of Lateral violence and Transgenerational Trauma)
In the home we are finding so many people at breaking point in their relationships, with their partners, their kids, their family and friends. Some of these men and women only know how to express anger. Violence and anger go hand in hand and when the only emotion you know how to express is anger, then violence is the only release we are going to see. All of the emotions one feels is expressed in the only way known so ever feelings of sadness are represented by anger. This is in some cases, a post traumatic response to experiences witnessed and learned from a lifetime of the manifestations of ‘Lateral violence’. As a young sacred child we see and learn from what is around us, we emulate our parents, family and friends striving to be just like them, which in turn sees us perpetuating these learned attitudes and values in our adult lives.
One of the main problems we must understand in these scenarios is this; we now have several generations that have stemmed from the ‘Stolen Generations’. Now if we think about this realistically, people were torn from their families and placed in institutions and homes across the country. Some people were lucky to find themselves in loving homes but these were few and far between. The reality for many was a myriad of ‘placements’ all without any real longevity or genuine nurturing, love and care. Some people were placed in up to 17 or more homes across the country before reaching an age where they could run away and fend for themselves. I won’t go into the unfathomable treatment that many people experienced during these terrible times but want you all to think about this – How can we expect adults who have had experiences like this, to automatically display nurturing behaviours of love and affection? To be able to instinctively know how to Mother or Father their offspring when the time comes for them to be a parent? Mothering and Fathering is a skill that now needs to be taught and learned by the next generations that are to come if we are to rebalance ourselves as a culture. Each person strives to provide a better life for their children than what they experienced for themselves. Kids need their parents to interact with them and teach them what it means to be alive and show them how to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
ISOLATION (A result of the survival mechanism we still need to save ourselves because we have not yet started to acknowledge, understand and address Lateral violence on the grand scale that is needed)
So many of you have shared stories of needing to isolate yourselves from family and loved ones because of infighting, drug and alcohol abuse, physical, mental and emotional violence in all its ugly forms and glory. This isolation is another form of ‘Lateral violence’, the manifestation of the survival mechanisms of old that we still need to employ to keep ourselves sane and somewhat distanced from immediate harm and turmoil. I can understand why many people like to think ‘Globally’ when dealing with these types of issues, because once you start addressing it at your local level (within your own families and even organisations) things can get very heated and messy in just a few misunderstood moments, so please be careful whilst talking to your loved ones and remember that it will take time for others to come around to understanding where we are coming from.
It saddens me that we still need to disconnect from the people that we love in order to survive. I am certain though, that taking these very difficult, important steps WILL improve our wellbeing for us and our children and the generations that will follow. IT IS TIME TO STOP THIS CYCLE OF COLONISATIONAL ABUSE ONCE AND FOR ALL!
TAINTED SERVICE DELIVERY (This is also Lateral violence)
I see many Aboriginal and Islander people working in Organisations and Government Institutions which claim to be providing a service to Grass Roots people and communities. We continue to see nepotism and the ‘who you know’ scenario played out on a daily basis within our own culture, where services to our communities are being undermined to the detriment and ill health of our people.
It is beyond me, how a person can apply for assistance from an Aboriginal service that can go unaddressed for three (3) years. Three (3) years before a first contact letter of receipt was received by the applicant. This application sat in somebodies ‘In Tray’ for three (3) years!!! All the while, other applications were being dealt with on a regular basis for unknown reasons to us, but which I am told were known to the establishment. Who gets to decide the level of service that each person needs or should get? This is pure Lateral violence.
IMPEDING PROOF OF ABORIGINALITY (Denying an Aboriginal or Islander person the necessary and appropriate documentation required to access services is Lateral violence)
I cannot count, how many times, I have heard comments about this one being ‘too white’ or a ‘coconut’, or that one not knowing anybody from their ‘real community’ or they have never been ‘home to country’, or that one’s parents didn’t identify so they shouldn’t be acknowledged or accepted either. This is pure Lateral violence. How can we have this mentality within our own ranks where a person who may be the product of the ‘Stolen Generations’ can be ridiculed and denied services from the community and labeled as ‘not black enough’.
Aboriginality comes from within and is about a spirituality that extends far beyond the colour of the skin. Being ‘not connected to your country’ is part of the deliberate intent of colonisation, surely not knowing your ‘homeland’ is punishment enough and requires no further alienation from us, doesn’t it? They were after all STOLEN. And the way in which some families from those times chose to survive was to attempt to assimilate. So many of our young people are experiencing this type of violence on a daily basis, how demoralizing it must be to have your identity constantly in question by mainstream and even more soul destroying when it comes from within our ‘own mobs’.
INABILITY TO SEE A GOOD OPPORTUNITY AND THEN HAVE THE GUTS TO TAKE IT (This is part of the cycle of the Victim mentality which is a result of Lateral violence)
There is an ongoing struggle to provide our young people culturally safe employment and opportunities. I see money being poured into employment initiatives that still fail to provide the support mechanisms necessary to back these young people up whilst they attempt to even out the playing field. Another swing on this that I am also witnessing is more and more young Aboriginal and Islander people passing up good, positive opportunities because they cannot see them right in front of their faces for looking. The loss of identity and lack of self-worth is denying our young ones the ability to connect and share with other Aboriginal and Islander people. The negativity and vicious cycles of abuse is causing isolation and denial of services.
The attitudes being displayed by some young people disturbs me greatly. These young men and women need our immediate support and attention. Their focus need to be shifted on from the old, well known attitudes and diverted from playing the ‘poor black fulla me’ card because this attitude is alienating them from other people in their lives who can provide support and guidance. Not just our kids, but all of us need to learn to seek and then FOLLOW THROUGH in accepting support and guidance. We need ongoing empowerment to make positive changes and to learn to trust in ourselves and each other again.
DESTRUCTION OF PHYSICAL HEALTH (A very real manifestation of Lateral violence)
There are many of our people experiencing extreme poor health across all age groups. We have young managers and leaders in the 40 – 50 age bracket having heart attacks and triple bypasses, there is as always an increase in Diabetes, mental health issues, depression for our people is through the roof, Transgenerational Trauma needs to be understood and catered for in mainstream health programs, and there is a new urgency for ‘Lateral violence’ knowledge to form the basis of any new programs around health care for Aboriginal and Islander people.
How can you truly treat a problem if you do not have a firm grasp of the root cause of the underlying issues which affect all Aboriginal and Islander people right back from 1788 due to colonisation?
It’s an extremely difficult task we are trying to accomplish here; a problem which stems from years and years of intended maltreatment that is not going to go away overnight. As I have mentioned before, we are not all going to agree, or be on the same page at the same time, and I don’t know why, but being nasty and negative is always a lot easier than being positive and encouraging. It is like trying to quit grog or smoking cigarettes, it is bloody HARD WORK. The good thing is that the change is far reaching and the positive impact will resonate in waves once we get started – it is contagious.
HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS CHANGE TOGETHER?
SHARE THE INFORMATION
Share this information with everyone you know, your family, your friends, your loved ones, your colleagues, even the ones you don’t know because this is a human condition, we are all able to relate to these issues regardless of race, colour or creed.
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF TO BECOME GENUINELY ADMIRABLE
If you are in a position that involves other Aboriginal and Islander staff, I beg you to make your primary goal about nurturing your fellow Aboriginal and Islander people. Make them your number one priority and gain their genuine respect through your actions, give them someone worthy to look up too. Put yourself back in their shoes once in a while, chances are your treatment of them may be a subconscious reflection of the way you were once treated. Maybe you are still experiencing ‘Lateral violence’ from your own peers or your mainstream colleagues. This is NOT ok and is NOT fair.
In this day and age the ‘Apprenticeship Mentality’ should be well and truly abolished. I am not saying that what happened to you is not equally as important, but in order for us to break the cycle, please place deal with it in its own right. These young people did not do this to you and should not be hauled through the same cycle of abuse just to make you feel better.
GO BACK TO OUR OLD WAYS OF SHARING AND CARING
Go back to our old ways of genuine sharing and caring. Share positive information and opportunities across all organisations and fields. We are currently in possession of the world’s most amazing technologies; use these to your advantage. Emailing, instant messaging and social media mean we are able to connect with each other and indeed many more people than ever before. Use these tools to empower one another not to abuse and ridicule or continue to perpetuate Lateral violence through Cyber Bullying and pack mentality upon our own people.
YARNING CIRCLES EVERYWHERE
Start ‘Yarning Circles’ across all levels of society; this means grass roots, communities, in the home, in the office, in existing networks and committees, in services, in departments and in agencies – GET LATERAL VIOLENCE ON THE MINDS OF ALL PEOPLE.
This initiative is taking off around the country and I am so proud to say that many of our intelligent young people are leading the way to start this universal healing. They truly are our future, we need to empower them and instill strength and courage so they will be able to withstand anything that comes their way once the elders of this land have joined the spirit world. There are existing Men’s and Women’s groups across the country that have contacted me and asked for guidance and support in their camps and meetings to share this information on ‘Lateral violence’. The response has been staggering, there does not seem to be one person out there that this topic has not struck a very personal chord with and so many of you are up for the challenge of addressing and eradicating ‘Lateral violence’ once and for all.
Many of you have approach me, asking for permission to translate the ‘Lateral violence’ information into Language. I commend you all for being brave and showing initiative in this area in coming up with strategies to tackle ‘Lateral violence’ head on. If you have the way and means of doing this type of translation in your own communities, please do so. The more we can share with our loved ones and enable open conversations about ‘Lateral violence’ the better our futures will be.
Translation is not just about Language, it is also about literacy barriers as well. If members of your family are unable to read this material, please take the time to read it to them. If there are people out there who have experiences they need to share, offer to write it down for them, sharing experiences is a positive first step in the healing process. Those of you who have stories to share please email them to the address at the bottom of this article and indicate your authority to have your stories included in our discussions either anonymously or in full. I believe the power of sharing helps others to identify the types of things we are talking about that occur on a daily basis as many of the issues we face, that can be attributed to many other factors, all stem from one true evil which is ‘Lateral violence’.
Lateral violence has been coined by many as the new ‘Racism’ and in some ways I agree, Racism is alive and well in the country that is for sure. The fact still remains that the ‘Lateral violence’ I am referring to here and in all of my discussions, goes far deeper than that, beyond the common understanding of racism, because it is primarily about an intended means of destruction of our race, and that means of destruction was instilled so deeply within the psyche of our people with intent for us to continually perpetuate this deliberate means of destruction onto one another, with the end result to enable us to unwittingly exterminate ourselves from the inside, so subtle that we would remain ever vigilant in destroying each other whilst continuing to be not so blissfully unaware.
February 14, 2012