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Aboriginal Cultures and Communities: Effects of Colonization

Prior to colonization, the Aboriginal people lived in tiny family groups linked to larger linguistic groups with specific geographical boundaries. They had elaborate family processes and social interaction norms (Resources et al., 2019). They had roles in education, law, and resource management, customs, language and traditions, and comprehensive knowledge of their surroundings. Their cultures were developed and robust, and the Aboriginal communities were self-governing. The children were safeguarded and nurtured. The paper aims to shed light on the impact of colonization on the Aboriginal people. It also discusses the importance of Aboriginal culture, the protective and risk factors of Aboriginal mental health concerning a case study, and the various interventions undertaken for improving the conditions and well-being of the deprived Aboriginals in Darwin, Australia.

Aboriginal cultures and communities suffered significantly as a result of European colonization. In the guise of protection, the Aboriginal individuals were exposed to various abuses that included mass massacres and being evacuated from their ancestral territories and relocated to reserves and missions (Resources et al., 2019). Cultural activities were discouraged. Colonization entailed violence, massacres, loss and disease for the Aboriginal people. Amidst the past and current effects of colonization, Aboriginal kinship structures, traditions, and customs continue to exist, and Aboriginal individuals, communities and families are brave and strong. The lost or the stolen generations are a group of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal individuals abducted from their communities and families when they were young (Lydon & Oxenham, 2021). Governments, welfare agencies, and churches took children from their homes and relocated them to foster homes, institutions or white families. Since the commencement of British colonization in Australia, Aboriginal children have been removed from their homes. It destroyed significant spiritual, cultural, and family connections, having a long-term and intergenerational effect on Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people’s lives and well-being. The families and survivors of the Stolen Generations have suffered worse than other Australians who were not relocated.

There are several Aboriginal peoples and cultures. In a wide spectrum of Australian communities, Aboriginal cultures persist and flourish. People can build respect for knowledge and diversity by learning about Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal customs and histories (Murray-Jones, 2021). It gives individuals a comprehensive understanding of Australia’s past. The Stolen Generations have impacted those forcefully evicted as young individuals and their relatives, parents and descendants. The populations suffer from anxiety, high rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicide. They also suffer from socioeconomic outcomes and poor health. Therefore, it is important to learn about the Aboriginal culture while working with the consumers, as learning about the background, culture, and ethnic groups helps achieve reconciliation in the society. The place in the case study is Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Aboriginals are the world’s oldest continuously existing civilization. The linguistic and cultural diversity is enormous, with rich beliefs and traditions rooted in the Australian land. Indigenous art adorns Darwin’s galleries. Carvings, dot paintings, and ceramics are the forms of art that the people have utilized for decades. Techniques are passed down over the generations. The Aboriginal people have a strong relationship with the land on which they dwell, and they consider the land more than just soil and sand and a breathing entity (Darwintour.com.au, 2022).

The Stolen Generations: Historical Trauma and Long-term Effects

While concerns like job, housing, and education impact everyone, Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal individuals face unique risk and protective variables that significantly affect their depression rates and social well-being. People can feel powerful and robust due to protective factors. For Aboriginals, these could include social connectivity and feeling of connection to culture, land and ancestry and dwelling near ancestral lands and exercising self-determination. A strong community governs the transmission of cultural practices. The risk factors that influence the social well-being of the Aboriginal people include cultural and racial discrimination, disadvantages in terms of social and economic status, violence, unresolved trauma, substance abuse and so on (Smallwood et al., 2021).

Helping the people in the case study is crucial in identifying proper support and interventions for improving the health and well-being of the individuals. The most effective ways for enhancing people’s well-being and health are promotion, prevention and early treatment. Screening tools enable more efficient healthcare pathways long before the health issues develop or worsen. It enables more tailored care by adapting health interventions to certain health-associated factors and initiating interventions (Colizzi, Lasalvia, & Ruggeri, 2020). Kirra, Marli, and Yarran are tired and undernourished. The daughter is suffering from mental health issues, and all three of them are depressed. Self-help groups will be beneficial in overcoming mental illness and enhancing cognitive and emotional well-being in some way (Bendig et al., 2021). Self-help groups can assist minimize the expenses of mental health care due to their nature, and integrating them into the mental health system could benefit all three. Mutual assistance may be beneficial in this case. It is defined as emotional, social or instrumental assistance delivered by individuals who have common mental health issues and agree on what might be beneficial (Fortuna et al., 2020). Kirra has left her husband’s home, and therefore it is important to provide assistance to help them live safely and build strategies. Marli and Yarran are young individuals at risk of experiencing homelessness. It is crucial to develop social connections and skills for the young individuals and help them with information, support and specialist services. Kirra and her children are undernourished. Therefore, it is crucial to provide a consistent and reliable meal. CAAPS Homelessness Outreach Support (HOS) Program staff and volunteers serve meals to the homeless people. It is important to teach the people about additional services and resources that can aid them in finding stable accommodation and getting their lives back on track. Supporting individuals who have been homeless in building community relations and connections by pairing them with a volunteer on a one-on-one basis, offering training and education assistance, and imparting first-aid skills. The new relationships and skills make a tremendous difference in individuals’ lives, assisting them in breaking free from homelessness cycles. It is important to provide showers, free hot meals, first aid, and hygiene items to the people in a secured spot away from the streets (Tambahani, 2019). Thus, providing a welcoming environment where individuals are at the risk of becoming homeless where they can get assistance and free meals is important. Thus, the primary aim should be to help vulnerable people live safely and formulate exit strategies.

Learning About and Respecting Aboriginal Culture

I have been working with Kirra’s family and her daughter Marli reveals that the counselling she has been receiving for her mental health issues, as she is lonely and sad, is not working. After seeking advice from my supervisor, I feel that other options may help Marli improve her health condition. Individuals with mental illnesses are more likely to engage in preventable chronic disease risk behaviours than the general population. The community mental health professionals do not usually provide care to minimize such risks (Bartlem et al., 2015). Consumer or survivor movements (CSIs) have been shown to assist in empowerment, social support, psychological well-being, identity transformation, self-management, and enhanced quality of life. Another intervention that may be an alternative to counselling is psychiatric rehabilitation (Vita & Barlati, 2019). It is a form of treatment that focuses on restoring an individual’s capability to operate at their best and achieve their life goals. It is generally accomplished by providing psychological, medical and social assistance. Rehabilitation aims to assist the patients in developing the cognitive and social abilities required to integrate into mainstream society (Philips et al., 2020). It enables the individual to establish a position for themselves. By delivering possibilities and avoiding discrimination and stigma, rehabilitation benefits the patient. It is an effective treatment that aims to enhance the mental health and the lives of the impacted individuals. It helps people in living independently in society. Marli will be greatly benefitted from psychiatric rehabilitation.

Compared to the normal population, homeless people have a greater risk of trauma, mental illness, suicide, associated complications, and shorter life expectancy. Family conflict, neglect and child abuse are common causes of homeless young children (Wang et al., 2019). In the case study, Kirra was forced to leave her husband’s house as she has been facing domestic violence for the last five years. It has impacted her mental health as well as her children severely. Psychotherapy can be a great option for treating Marli. A skilled mental health professional provides psychotherapy as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with mental health. Psychotherapy aims to enhance the well-being of an individual by exploring ideas, behaviours, and feelings (Fava & Guidi, 2020). The most efficient strategy to promote recovery is to combine psychotherapy with medication. Medication helps with the management of symptoms. The interventions will help Marli cope with her depression and anxiety and improve her overall health and well-being.

Conclusion

Therefore, from the above discussion, it can be concluded that the European colonization severely impacted the lives of the Aboriginal people in the Darwin region of Australia. Colonization entailed violence and massacres for the Aboriginal individuals. A generation has been lost. Children were removed from their homes and relocated to other locations away from their families. The Aboriginal people lost their ancestral lands. Their culture suffered significantly due to the European colonization. It had a long-term effect on the survivors. The people in the case scenario are Aboriginals dwelling in Darwin who suffer from severe mental health issues due to family conflict. The children have been severely impacted. CAAPS Homelessness Outreach Support Program assists the family in accessing mainstream agencies to secure and maintain stable accommodation and improve the condition of the people. Several interventions have been proposed to improve their condition. Marli is a young individual, and she requires assistance with her mental health issues. Several strategies have been discussed in the paper that will help Marli lead a better life.

References

Bartlem, K. M., Bowman, J., Freund, M., Wye, P. M., Barker, D., McElwaine, K. M., ... & Wiggers, J. (2015). Effectiveness of an intervention in increasing the provision of preventive care by community mental health services: a non-randomized, multiple baseline implementation trial. Implementation Science, 11(1), 1-12. https://implementationscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13012-016-0408-4

Bendig, E., Meißner, D., Erb, B., Weger, L., Küchler, A. M., Bauereiss, N., ... & Baumeister, H. (2021). Study protocol of a randomised controlled trial on SISU, a software agent providing a brief self-help intervention for adults with low psychological well-being. BMJ open, 11(2), e041573. https://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041573

Colizzi, M., Lasalvia, A., & Ruggeri, M. (2020). Prevention and early intervention in youth mental health: is it time for a multidisciplinary and trans-diagnostic model for care?. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 14(1), 1-14. https://ijmhs.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13033-020-00356-9

Darwintour.com.au. (2022). Why the Aboriginal Culture in Darwin, Northern Territory is so significant. Darwin Tours. Retrieved 9 April 2022, from https://darwintour.com.au/blog/why-the-aboriginal-culture-in-darwin-northern-territory-is-so-significant/#:~:text=They%20are%20the%20oldest%20continuous,spiritual%20landmarks%20of%20the%20land.

Fava, G. A., & Guidi, J. (2020). The pursuit of euthymia. World Psychiatry, 19(1), 40-50. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20698

Fortuna, K. L., Naslund, J. A., LaCroix, J. M., Bianco, C. L., Brooks, J. M., Zisman-Ilani, Y., ... & Deegan, P. (2020). Digital peer support mental health interventions for people with a lived experience of a serious mental illness: systematic review. JMIR mental health, 7(4), e16460. https://doi.org/10.2196/16460

Lydon, J., & Oxenham, D. (2021). ‘The Best Day for Me, Looking at These Old Photos’: Returning Photographs to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. In Adjusting the Lens: Indigenous Activism, Colonial Legacies, and Photographic Heritage. University of British Columbia Press. https://api.research-repository.uwa.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/151235374/Open_Access_Lydon_Oxenham.pdf

Murray-Jones, J. (2021). Positive Outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education and the Visual Arts. In Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: The Context of Being, Interculturality and New Knowledge Systems. Emerald Publishing Limited. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/978-1-80043-006-820211016/full/html

Phillips, M., Turner-Stokes, L., Wade, D., & Walton, K. (2020). Rehabilitation in the wake of Covid-19-a Phoenix from the ashes. British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1(2), 1-20. https://www.bsrm.org.uk/downloads/covid-19bsrmissue1-published-27-4-2020.pdf

Resources, A., Toolkit, A., & History, A. (2019). Aboriginal Culture and History - Aboriginal Cultural Capability Toolkit - VPSC. VPSC. Retrieved 9 April 2022, from https://vpsc.vic.gov.au/html-resources/aboriginal-cultural-capability-toolkit/aboriginal-culture-history/.

Smallwood, R., Woods, C., Power, T., & Usher, K. (2021). Understanding the impact of historical trauma due to colonization on the health and well-being of indigenous young peoples: a systematic scoping review. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 32(1), 59-68. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1043659620935955

Tambahani, B. K. (2019). Working with young homeless people for change. https://dspace.cuni.cz/handle/20.500.11956/105531

Vita, A., & Barlati, S. (2019). The implementation of evidence-based psychiatric rehabilitation: challenges and opportunities for mental health services. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 147. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00147

Wang, J. Z., Mott, S., Magwood, O., Mathew, C., Mclellan, A., Kpade, V., ... & Andermann, A. (2019). The impact of interventions for youth experiencing homelessness on housing, mental health, substance use, and family cohesion: a systematic review. BMC public health, 19(1), 1-22. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12889-019-7856-0

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