Despite Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s claims, the conditions enabling colonialism don’t simply ‘disappear’ by denying they continue to exist.
A warning: this article mentions suicide and mental trauma.
I am a psychologist with a 100% Indigenous client base. I can tell you with 25 years of authority and expertise that the narrative that colonialism brought only “positive changes” for Aboriginal people isn’t misguided, it is dangerous.
I work in the prevention of Indigenous suicide and violence, counselling for trauma and mental health treatment, and have witnessed my clients regress in their therapy from this dangerous misconception. Each one is a human being, all of whom have a consistent background of living with the legacy of colonialism’s forced removals of Aboriginal children from their families.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s comments that there aren’t lasting negative impacts of British colonisation reveal a lack of comprehension regarding race-mediated trauma, the ongoing effects of colonialism, the conditions that enabled it and which continue and which have been linked not by anecdote but by science.
It also tells me that sadly, the default position is still to deny the trauma of Aboriginal people rather than validate or acknowledge it, as if doing so will result in it being contagious or result in some sort of “victim mentality vortex” that Aboriginal people are unable to extract ourselves from when the clear evidence is that trauma denial compounds it rather than prevents it. It creates further stigma for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — that they are simply not tough enough to “snap out of it”, for example.
When Aboriginal leadership is promoting this idea, it becomes more widely endorsed because it’s coming from “lived experience”. Lived experience is extremely helpful to understand and develop insight, but not when it discounts the trauma of survivors.
There is also the erroneous idea that trauma is visible, which creates more stigma to those with trauma. Most people with PTSD look “functional” day to day but that doesn’t mean they and their families are not suffering. Those with PTSD can internalise and hide their symptoms well. This includes flashbacks, depression, substance abuse, impulse control, anger and violence.
So if we are truly serious about prevention — given the link between PTSD and increased risk for contact with the justice system and child protection services as well as the link with suicides — trauma denial ensures we fail to address the root cause.