Intergenerational trauma is a phenomenon that has affected many indigenous populations across the world, including in Australia. Intergenerational trauma refers to the transmission of the effects of trauma from one generation to the next, often resulting in a range of psychological and behavioural problems. This type of trauma can result from a wide range of events, including war, genocide, forced removal, and cultural genocide.


One example of intergenerational trauma in Australia is the Stolen Generations. Between the late 1800s and the 1970s, Indigenous Australian children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and placed in government institutions or with non-Indigenous families. This policy was designed to assimilate Indigenous Australians into mainstream society, but it resulted in the loss of culture, language, and identity for many Indigenous Australians, as well as emotional and psychological trauma. The trauma of the Stolen Generations has been passed down to subsequent generations through parenting practices, attachment issues, and the transmission of cultural knowledge.


Another example of intergenerational trauma in Australia is the impact of colonialism on Indigenous Australian communities. The colonization of Australia by Europeans resulted in the displacement of Indigenous Australians from their land and the suppression of their culture and traditions. This has resulted in the loss of identity, spirituality, and social connectedness for many Indigenous Australians. The impact of colonialism has been passed down through generations, resulting in psychological distress, social and economic disadvantage.


The impact of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous Australian communities has been well documented. A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that Indigenous Australians are more likely to experience mental health problems than non-Indigenous Australians, and that this is linked to a history of trauma and loss. The study also found that intergenerational trauma can impact on the health and wellbeing of subsequent generations, including increased rates of substance abuse, family violence, and self-harm.


In Australia, trauma-informed care, including psychological and counselling interventions, plays a crucial role in supporting those who are experiencing the effects of intergenerational trauma. Trauma-informed care is an approach that recognizes the prevalence and impact of trauma and seeks to provide care that is sensitive to the needs of trauma survivors. It involves creating safe and supportive environments, building trust, and empowering individuals to have a sense of control and autonomy in their healing journey. Trauma-informed care also emphasizes the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding the historical and social context in which trauma has occurred.


Psychologists, counsellors, and psychodynamic therapists can play a crucial role in providing trauma-informed care to those who are experiencing intergenerational trauma. They use evidence-based therapeutic techniques and approaches that are tailored to the needs of the individual and the community, considering the cultural and historical context of the trauma. Psychological interventions can support individuals who are experiencing intergenerational trauma in the following ways:


Identifying and processing traumatic experiences: Psychologists and counsellors can help individuals identify and process their traumatic experiences, including those that may have been passed down through generations. This can involve exploring emotions, thoughts, and memories associated with the trauma, and developing coping strategies to manage distressing symptoms.


Strengthening coping skills: Psychological interventions can help individuals develop effective coping skills to manage the impact of intergenerational trauma on their mental health and daily functioning. This may include developing healthy coping mechanisms, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and stress management strategies.


Enhancing resilience: Psychologists and counsellors can work with individuals to build resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from adversity. This can involve identifying and utilizing personal strengths, developing positive coping strategies, and fostering social support networks.


Building healthy relationships: Intergenerational trauma can impact an individual’s ability to form healthy relationships. Psychological interventions can help individuals develop healthy attachment styles, improve communication skills, and establish supportive relationships with others.


Addressing cultural and identity issues: Cultural revitalization programs, which are often integrated into trauma-informed care, can help individuals reconnect with their cultural heritage and build a positive sense of identity. Psychologists and counsellors can assist individuals in exploring their cultural identity and addressing any cultural and identity-related issues that may arise from intergenerational trauma.


Providing psychoeducation: Educating individuals about the nature of trauma, its effects, and the healing process can empower them with knowledge and understanding. Psychologists and counsellors can provide psychoeducation to help individuals make sense of their experiences and develop a sense of control and agency in their healing journey.


In addition to trauma-informed care there are also initiatives in Australia that seek to address intergenerational trauma such as cultural revitalization programs, and community-led healing. Cultural revitalization programs aim to restore and preserve Indigenous cultural practices and knowledge, which can help to strengthen social connections and a sense of identity. Community-led healing programs aim to address intergenerational trauma at the community level, by promoting healing through cultural practices, community engagement, and support services.


It is important to acknowledge the impact of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous Australian communities and to work towards building a more just and equitable society for all Australians. The effects of trauma can be far-reaching, and addressing intergenerational trauma requires a multifaceted approach that involves addressing the root causes of trauma, providing support for individuals and communities, and promoting healing and resilience. By working together to address intergenerational trauma, we can help to promote the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and build a more inclusive and compassionate society.




Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 report: Data tables. Retrieved from


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: 2015. Retrieved from