Lets go back to the beginning to understand why we are doing what we do …

What is Lateral Violence?

Back in 2012 the sad news of the passing of a young girl in a remote community who was subjected to ongoing lateral violence really impacted on us here at Lateral Love.

As part of our going back to the beginning posts we are revisiting Part 2 today to remind ourselves of our original purpose in tackling these serious issues in the way that we have.

Lateral violence is present at every single level within our society and when we start to recognise the behaviours in ourselves and others, we can really see the level of reach where this debilitating negative practice has taken a strong hold.

Please read our perspectives with an open mind and an open heart and if this resonates with you please share with as many people as you can with the aim of starting the conversations within your own families and communities.

Lateral violence is an extremely personal and confronting topic, through our experience every individual does have different feelings about it. Because of this there is no room for malice and cultural safety should be the ultimate priority for us all to allow the conversations that need to take place.

We must all come together and share our information whilst trying not to overreact on a personal level.

This aspect alone is terribly confronting, even with all the knowledge and understanding that continue to grow within both myself and Uncle Brian as individuals around lateral violence and lateral love, it is a daily effort to keep our own minds on task and dealing with the ingrained lateral violence is a personal choice and battle we also face. This internal chatter, what we refer to as ‘the lateral violence in your head’ is what manifests into confusion, misconceptions and poor communication, and ultimately leads to feelings that impact on our own self worth and capabilities.

The difficulty comes not only for each of us as individuals in attempting to manage our own personal feelings and responses, but also with the family, friends and colleagues that we choose to share with, and the difficult conversations that this topic will undoubtedly bring to the surface.

We know it requires strength and courage to deal with these issues and conversations, but we have faith that each and every one of us can push beyond our everyday limitations for the sake of our children and the generations yet to come.

Some of the feelings we can expect to be exposed include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Anger

– Disappointment

– Fear

– Grief

– Guilt

– Isolation

– Feeling Overwhelmed

– Relief

– Sadness

– Shame

– Threatened and Defensive

One thing is for certain, we will all have a different reaction, view and perspective which will need to be respected and nurtured along the way. It is ok to have a different oppinion to others, and we must learn to communicate respectfully and to allow this difference without getting caught up in the conflict and drama that many of us have been used to in the past.

Each of us will be ready to deal with our layers of trans-generational trauma, pain and suffering in our own space and time, but the one thing we can do collectively is have the strength to lead by example and with conviction. Start the awkward conversations and force ourselves to share information regardless of ego or personal gain. Share with each other and bring back to life that lore that gave us our beautiful ways, our caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect.

Lateral violence happens to all people, within all cultures across the world, but the type of lateral violence we started talking about back in 2012 related specifically to Aboriginal and Islander people in this country, our own families and communities.

As Aboriginal people, the first nations people of this land we need a collective healing and we need it to come from within our own families and communities. Aboriginal people need to reconcile the rift that was created when this land was colonised.

Whilst we were denigrated to the flora and fauna act, our land, spirit and culture was divided up and handed out to the subjects of the crown as parcels of land (our land that was declared terra nullias) with which to form the stability and foundations for their children and grandchildren to prosper into the collective non-Aboriginal Australian society where many enjoy what has become know as ‘the lucky country’ over the past 300 years. Aboriginal people were systematically stripped of this very same priviledge, there was no more stability and foundation for us to continue to propser as we had done for 800,000 years prior to colonisation, to hand down to our children and grandchildren.

In no way does this conversation take away from the pain and suffering of any other culture or their experiences as this too would be a form of lateral violence. Our dead people are equally as important as every other person dead people, all of us who have experienced losing a loved one at the hand of lateral violence or through suicide are equally devestating.

There is healing required on such a vast scale that if every initiative could be built on Caring, Sharing, Nurturing, Love and Respect what a change we could expect to see. These principals need to take front and centre in all of our thought processes, actions and conversations, in everything we do.

Each and every person within our immediate circle needs to feel loved, valued and appreciated for the shift in consciousness to occur and create the ripple effect out into our families, communities and societies at large. When we do this and our motivations are for nothing more that the betterment of the human condition, the sky really is the limit.

We have chosen to utilise modern technology to share this information as widely as possible and in doing so have found it necessary to address some social networking issues immediately as they link directly to lateral violence.

Social networking is a wonderful tool that we can use to connect and indeed, re-connect with many people as technology bridges distance that is no longer a barrier to caring and sharing. The lack of verbal and non-verbal cues which become lost through this form of communication does however run the risk of causing additional distress to people on a journey of healing.

We all need to remember this when reading and posting on threads and other peoples pages and walls. What we share in cyberspace it is there forever! How it translates to the receiver may not be how it sounded in our mind when we typed our views or responses.

Most importantly, when we are hurt and our spirit is low we can feel threatened and if we are not particularly good at managing our feelings and emotions what comes out can be very negative or abusive particularly online. This is also a form of Lateral violence and can very quickly escalate to cyber bullying.

Please, and we cannot stress this point enough, when you read something disrespectful and negative about yourself, it leaves an imprint on our minds and reinforces into our subconscious much longer than that which is spoken verbally in the heat of debate.

From our own personal experience we know the damage that can come from a text message or email sent in the heat of emotion, unfortunately it can be read and re-read with the negative message reaching our loved ones again and again. We may get over whatever it was that caused our initial distress, but we can not erase the message from our loved ones phone or computer causing irreversible damage that can take years to repair and as we have all seen in mainstream media, this type of behaviour has also lead some people to suicide.

The reason we need to understand the true meaning of lateral violence is this; our children need to move beyond the survival mechanisms that we, the older generations, needed to survive. This survival instinct served us well and allowed you and I to be here, and yes we did survive. Our children need us to come together and give them a strong base of solidarity and culture to help them to grow and shape their way into the future; a solid base that is free from the binds of lateral violence and oppression and is firmly rooted in lateral love and the principals of caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect.

Again the wisdom of Auntie Cheri Yavu Kama Harathunian explains lateral violence in a way that resonates with us and expresses the true meaning that we are speaking about on this journey, “This ‘yellow snake’, this lateral violence has been curled up in our peoples living moments for three centuries, because it sinuously crawled amongst our peoples for over the last 300 years. We were not only forced to suffer the invasion of 1788. We have been carrying that suffering with us all of this time and our ancestors learned very well and copied the violence that was perpetrated against them and used what they learned to ensure that with violence they would individually survive”…”Even in our survival techniques there was violence, because peoples had to go up against each other, go up against their loved ones, anyone that they saw who was a threat to their own survival. We learned to turn our faces away from each other, and began to wear ‘Big Shame’ in our waking and sleeping hours. We learned to be ‘takers’ not ‘givers’ and then the government blest us with welfare and for years we did not realise it but our minds were being conditioned to accept that this was our lot and we developed and then suffered from and some of us still suffer from a welfare mentality. We learned that it was okay to hit, stamp on, fight with, brutalise, torment each other just to get on, and become like the invaders because they were getting a better deal out of life”. “We were taught by religion that “White was right and black was evil”. and we learned to hate ourselves, our culture, our languages, and our own God given ways of being who we are; First Nations peoples with many nation names.  Political violence forced our ancestors to become slaves, victims and perpetrators of the violence that seemed to work and help the invaders get on and become something.  We turned into each other, and began to practice the violence that we saw and here we are today.  But it is our young, our beautiful young ones who now openly manifest this insidious thing that takes them to that place where they feel so hopeless and helpless. They go to that bleak place where for them the only solution to their pain is to take control of their own choice to take their most precious gift – life – and they choose to go to sleep forever to ease their suffering and their pain and their disconnection from themselves, their family, their people, their culture, and their sacred lands. They haven’t even lived! That ‘yellow snake’ that Lateral violence has to be addressed”. ~ Cheri Yavu Kama Harathunian 2012

We need to go beyond the surface of what we know, beyond the reactionary world we have come to live by that has done its darnedest to numb our spirituality and ignore our souls original purpose. Knowing lateral violence, and that it has underpinned our existence, is the first step to healing for each and every one of us.

We commend you all for being open and taking the time to read about this important subject. No matter how painful it is, things can only improve through our understanding and support of one another.



NT Intervention – the struggle continues after six years of racism and disempowerment

NT Intervention – the struggle continues after six years of racism and disempowerment

by Barbara Shaw, Mt Nancy Town Camp, Alice Springs

Barbara Shaw addressing 1100+ delegates at the recent SNAICC Conference held in Cairns QLD

Barbara Shaw addressing 1100+ delegates at the recent SNAICC Conference held in Cairns QLD

Six years ago my family watched the TV in my living room as John Howard announced he would be sending in the military and taking control of our communities.

I have never been more frightened in my life. I locked the gate of my town camp and kept the kids inside for two weeks for fear of them being taken. I worried constantly about my family out bush who didn’t understand what was coming.

They said the Intervention was about stopping children from being abused, that it was going to stop the drinking and domestic violence. But all I have seen is racism and disempowerment of our people. It’s the old assimilation policy back again, to control how we live. The government and many non-Aboriginal NGOs have taken over the assets and responsibilities of our organisations, both in the major town centres and remote communities forcing us to comply with their policies that take no account of Aboriginal culture and our obligations.

Take income management, which I have been on for five and a half years. I ran for parliament in 2010 and outpolled both Labor and Liberal candidates in Central Australian communities. I have represented my people at the United Nations. But the Government says I can’t manage my money. On their own estimations of $6000 to 8000 per person per year administrative cost for income management, the government has spent more than $30,000 dollars just to control my small income.

This system has made it much harder for us to share and care for each other. I used to run an unofficial safe house here at Mt Nancy town camp. I’d get money off all the parents every week. If there was drinking and fighting and the kids needed somewhere to be, they knew they were safe here at “Big Mamma’s” house and that I could buy meals for them. No one has the cash to chuck in any more. The Government has refused to fund a community centre here on our town camp.

The town camps of Alice Springs have seen a massive influx of people coming in from remote communities. Taking away Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and Aboriginal Community Government Councils out bush means people have nothing to do there. At the moment I have five families and four generations staying in my house, my little family and others from the bush, many trying to access services like respite care which should be available back in their home community. We are one family in each room and another in the lounge room. As always, I have given up my bed out of respect for older relatives.

Many who come into town to access the services just stay here, or others come in just to drink. I am witness on a daily basis to the increase in drinking and fighting on our camps that has come from this.

It makes me sick in my stomach when I hear Aboriginal MLA Bess Price attack me in Parliament as an anti-Intervention activist who does not care about the suffering of women and children. I have to deal with these issues every day and I see them getting worse because of the policies she has supported. The massive influx of her own constituents from bush communities that have been robbed of jobs and assets is a major driving factor.

Bess Price promised on ABC radio after being elected to the Northern Territory Parliament last year that she would put back the Yuendumu community council. Where is that promise now? Her Country Liberal Government has made it clear they will not be bringing back the Councils. Her Government has cut funding for our youth programs, has cut funding for domestic violence workers in NT Hospitals. These are all things we have been campaigning for. The $1 billion that has been budgeted since the Intervention for the income management system Bess Price supports — but has never had to live under — could fund the support and services that we actually need to deal with these issues.

Many more police are employed now in Alice Springs, supposedly to deal with the social problems. But the relationship with Aboriginal people has seriously broken down. We live in fear of the police, always hearing stories about them bashing our relatives, or taking them 20km out of town so they have to walk back. We are scared what happened to Kwementyaye Briscoe, who died last year after being taken into “protective custody” by the police.

The Intervention gave police the power to enter our homes without a warrant to search for alcohol, along with “star-chamber” powers that treat us as terrorists. I have heard that this week in a case brought by Palm Island residents, the High Court ruled that alcohol laws which target Aboriginal people are “special measures” under the Racial Discrimination Act because they are for our own good.

Let me explain what this means for my life. Earlier this year there was a massive police raid here on my camp which they said was a “routine operation” to search for alcohol. There were paddy wagons, squad cars, four wheel drives, a surveillance van and police officers on dirt bikes circling every yard, going in to search every house.

I was shaking in my shoes. I had many children in the house who are already scared of police and I didn’t want them coming through. I was breaking the law that day. I had three cans left over from a six pack of beer in the house. I was worried I was going to be arrested and taken away with all these children in my house. I gave it to the police and asked them not to come through because of the children. But they said they had to. They walked through making comments like they were a landlord doing an inspection, “this is a nice house, not like those other ones”.

So many more of our people are going to prison. There are twice as many people locked up now than before the Intervention and three times as many woman. Close relatives of mine — men, women and teenagers are all currently in prison. I’m giving support to my brother in law looking after a baby and young child while his wife is in prison.

The house I live in is just one year younger than me. My father fought for funding to build houses on our town camps. We used to manage them ourselves before we were forced to sign over our leases to the Commonwealth government. Now I am paying next to market rent to the NT Housing agency on a house I have lived in for much of my life.

We have so many problems with NT Housing. We used to get repairs and maintenance done through our Aboriginal council Tangentyere, but now we have to wait and wait for shoddy work from NT Housing. We used to be able to have people making trouble on our town camp dealt with straight away through Tangentyere. now we don’t have that power and can’t do anything about problem visitors.

I sit at my front door and see Public Housing Officers, toy coppers who just cruise around our camps watching for trouble and calling the police. It used to be our Night Patrol — our own people who would actually get out of the car, engage with us, try and solve problems where they could without police. Our Night Patrol is still active, but are being pushed aside out of their role.

Living under Territory Housing rules and regulations is not culturally appropriate. For example, in Aboriginal society when somebody passes away, the family moves out of that house and another moves in. We swap houses. Or if a young fella comes out of ceremony camp, he has to stay in a house with other young men. We can’t take our own initiatives to make these changes any more. There is a real ignorance and a hostile mentality towards Aboriginal people within the NT Housing department.

I have fought the Intervention from day one. We built a massive amount of support from people and organisations right across Australia to try and stop the government from continuing the Intervention for another 10 years through the “Stronger Futures” laws. But they refused to listen to us.

I will keep fighting. Self determination is the key to getting us out of the social problems that we face today. It is the only way to do this. It is just disgusting how much money has been wasted on bureaucrats to control us, or on ineffective non-Aboriginal services that can not engage with our people.

Whether it’s in a remote community or here in a town camp — services must be delivered by our people. We must be given the power and resources to take control. We have the language, we have the communication, we can relate to one another. And there must be proper funding to our organisations, on a scale that can actually help lift us out of shocking living conditions. Not just peppercorn short term grants that set us up to fail.

I want to appeal to all the supporters I know are out there to keep fighting alongside me. Income management is not just in my backyard, now it’s coming to yours.

? Question of the Day ?

How do you all think we can stamp out Lateral Violence and replace it with Lateral Love in our Families and Communities?

Comments appreciated!

Spirit of Uluru

? Question of the Day ?

How many of us have experienced people we know or love behaving badly towards us recently?

Frequent manifestations of lateral violence include:

• nonverbal innuendo (raising eyebrows, face-making),

• bullying,

• verbal affront (overt/covert, snide remarks, lack of openness, abrupt responses, gossiping),

• shaming,

• undermining activities (turning away, not being available, social exclusion),

• withholding information,

• sabotage (deliberately setting up a negative situation),

• infighting (bickering, family feuds),

• scapegoating,

• backstabbing (complaining to peers and not confronting the individual),

• failure to respect privacy,

• broken confidences,

• organisational conflict,

• physical violence.

The Lateral Violence we are talking about is far from being the ‘fuzzy buzz word’ that many people choose to used to dismiss this destructive behaviour.

We must acknowledge our actions and behaviours to be able to work towards healing our souls to create positive opportunities for our future generations.

Spirit of Uluru


? Question of the Day ?

Rejecting Confirmation of Aboriginality for our young people – How many suicides have occurred due to this type of lateral violence? How many more must we endure before this shameful practice ceases?

Spirit of Uluru