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Why Julia Gillard Is Fighting To Change The Constitution

“It’s time for us to honestly face our past”

As an Australian politician, I had the privilege of visiting Indigenous communities from our country’s centre, to the  far north and west, and to those in our towns and cities.  My role wasn’t to talk at the people I met: I was visiting to listen, learn, have conversations.

I won’t pretend that these brief experiences made me an expert, but over the years one thing has remained crystal clear: we kid ourselves if we don’t acknowledge how much life chances turn on circumstance. How much life chances turn on race.

What would my life have been like if, in 1961, I was born to Indigenous parents instead of my Welsh mum and dad? Baby Julia would have been born in the final years of the Stolen Generation. It is impossible for me to understand what it would have felt like to be a kid wrenched away from my parents. The horror of being taken and separated from loved ones, home, community and culture. The ripple effect of despair, terror and grief through communities torn apart for no reason other than race.

These kinds of traumas leave a mark, not just now but for generations. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, that intergenerational trauma is compounded by continuing experiences of racism, exclusion and disadvantage. All these factors increase the risk of mental ill-health, substance abuse and suicide.

Tragically, Indigenous Australians are almost twice as likely to die by suicide as non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people account for a quarter of suicide deaths under 18 years of age – despite representing only three per cent of the overall population.

We can all do something about this toll.

It’s time for us to honestly face our past.

We should acknowledge 250 years of damage and the shocking impact it has had on the wellbeing and mental health of First Nations people. Therefore it is important that we listen and learn as they lead us on the path towards healing.

At Beyond Blue, we believe we have a special responsibility to join with Indigenous Australians in advocating for action on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and walking together towards a better future.


This article originally appeared in the February issue of marie claire Australia. 

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