Grief, Loss and Trauma and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples
It’s hard not to be shocked and angered by events across the United States in the past two weeks following the tragic death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. The images we are seeing are upsetting and bring up pain, grief and trauma for many.
These recent events have refocused attention on Australia's history of violence, racismand neglect towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples.The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB), as a national organisation with a focus on grief and loss, is acutely aware of the grief and loss that has been, and continues to be, experienced by Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal communities continue to face transgenerational trauma, grief and loss associated with the ongoing impact of dislocation and the effects of mistreatment and the forced removal of children. Ongoing exposure to multiple psychological stressors and socio-economic disadvantage, along with pervasive racism and discrimination at an individual, institutional and systemiclevel, continue to impact upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project; https://go.aws/2YfsRVd).
The grief from the premature deaths of family, community members and friends, including high rates of suicide continues to be unacceptable. Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2017 indicates that 5.5 per cent of all Indigenous deaths are suicides (compared to 2 per cent in the rest of the community). Suicide accounts for 40 per cent of deaths in Indigenous children aged five to 17 (Journal of the Australian Medical Association WA, October 2019, https://bit.ly/3hb3so8).
Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 there have been over 400 Aboriginal people die in custody and the Indigenous incarceration rate is double what it was 30 years ago. We need to stand with Indigenous people and communities against racially motivated violence and deaths in custody.
ACGB joins with others in condemning racism in all forms.
When our journalGrief Matters: The Australian Journal of Grief and Bereavementwas launched in 1998, the second edition of this journal focussed on Loss, Grief and Trauma of Australia's Indigenous people. The cover image of this edition is of Colleen Richman's family. Colleen Richman was fatally shot by a police officer in St. Kilda in 1994. We have made this edition of the journal open access and you can read the full contents of this edition here https://go.aws/30lgw4m.
The production of the ACGB resourceWorking with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Grief and Bereavement (https://bit.ly/3eWz7bc) is a solid start, however, as an organisation we are committed to do more. We will continue to listen carefully and explore ways that we can partner with Aboriginal health services and others to ensure that our teaching and bereavement support services are culturally sensitive and appropriate.
I, along with the staff of the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, look forward to continuing to work on these goals.
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement