Implications of Intergenerational Trauma and Systemic Abuse for Australia’s First Nations: Considering the Role of Activism in Healing

November 20, 2021

First Nations peoples understand all too well the collective, historical and intergenerational trauma that permeates our communities. This trauma intersects our lives in ways that often impedes our realisation of rights especially for those most vulnerable, our mothers and children experiencing violence and who encounter inflexible institutions constrained by regulatory frameworks.
Self-determination, is seen both by First Nation communities and by States as the panacea to realising rights, evidenced by the increasing use of this term in law, policy and practice. Yet conflict arises when the term is interpreted and applied narrowly or in ways that limit the authority of our families and communities. First Nation’s activism, especially that of women, asserting their right to self determination has been critical to creating space and place for the development of historical consciousness in the public imagination and naming and challenging the systemic abuse that is experienced. Our activism is also about honouring our families, creating space to hear their truth and their calls for action, so that demands for justice and healing can be fully realised. This paper reflects on the connections between intergenerational trauma, activism, and supporting First Nation’s communities, including the role of organisations and individuals in that process.

Potential to Distress: Yes

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Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Event starts: 
11/20/2021 - 2:30pm EST
Event ends: 
11/20/2021 - 4:00pm EST
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Presenter: Kyllie Cripps, PhD 
Presenter Bio: Dr Kyllie Cripps is a Scientia Fellow and Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty at the University of New South Wales. Kyllie as a Palawa woman has worked extensively over the past twenty years in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse with Indigenous communities, defining areas of need and considering intervention options at multiple levels. She has led three major Australian Research Council grants in the areas of Indigenous family violence including one defining and contextualizing, Indigenous and non Indigenous, community and service sector, understandings and practices of partnerships in the family violence sector. The research in this area was significant for identifying gaps and opportunities in the sector that could facilitate improvements in service responses to Indigenous family violence. A further ARC grant with fellow CI’s Professor Megan Davis and Professor Annie Cossins explores ‘The role of cultural factors in the sentencing of Indigenous sex offenders in the Northern Territory‘. This project involved an empirical analysis of the extent to which extra-legal factors relating to sexuality and Indigenous culture influenced the sentencing of sex offenders. The study is currently in the processes of publishing its results and will contribute much needed evidence to support future NT policy, legal practice and law reform relating to sentencing in sexual assault cases with broader application to other Australian jurisdictions.

Kyllie is also leading an AHURI project with Associate Professor Daphne Habibis from the University of Tasmania undertaking research exploring the relationship between Indigenous family violence and housing and the final report this project will be released in the first half of 2019.

Kyllie’s interests in the intersection between family violence and child protection are also evident in her publication and public speaking record. In particular her focus on ‘failure to protect’ exploring the impact of policy and legislation for Aboriginal mothers charged with failing to protect their children in contexts of family violence and also the significance of permanent care law reforms and their implications for Indigenous children’s cultural connections.

Kyllie’s expertise in the area of interpersonal violence is regularly recognised with invitations to provide advice to state and federal governments this is demonstrated in her publications, in her public speaking and her appointments to state and national committees responding to family violence. She also routinely provides advice and training to professional groups and Indigenous communities in her areas of expertise. Kyllie’s work has also been recognised internationally with invitations to speak and to teach on Indigenous experiences of violence in the United States and Canada.

Presenter: Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts
Presenter Bio: Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts is a proud Bundjalung woman. Vanessa is a storyteller who loves a yarn alongside being a writer, activist and is currently on her final stages to completing a Law and Social work degree at the University Of New South Wales. Vanessa took out the 2019 Australia’s young person’s human rights medal with an acceptance speech that went viral sharing the importance of abolishing the current system of criminal justice and statutory Out of Home Care (OOHC) demanding justice for children and young people. She has represented Australia at international and national levels.

Vanessa has a lifetime commitment to addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in custody and OOHC. Vanessa is proud to be a part of the resilience, the love, the kinship and truth that stems from the roots of being First Nations, and will continue to demand justice for the lives, bodies and lands through political discourse, writing and utilising the law as a mechanism to contribute to justice.

Vanessa’s commitment to studying Law stems from the disproportionate impact of the law in her own community, which over policing and racism was and is highly present. Vanessa was forcibly stolen from her community and family at the age of 10.5 due to falsified allegations of neglect and the role racism played at both an institutional and direct practice level. Vanessa’s commitment to healing children and amplifying their voices through her writing, the legal system, storytelling and advocacy remains at the frontline of all her work.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


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