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First Nations peoples with disability suffering trauma and abandonment: DRC Report

Please be aware that this release contains information that may be distressing to readers. First Nations readers should be aware that this release contains content that refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have passed away.

A First Nations woman with disability who has experienced the deaths of people close to her through violence and neglect “cries by herself” rather than talk to people about her trauma.

The woman, whose story is recorded in a report commissioned by the Disability Royal Commission about the experiences of First Nations people with disability, says if she does talk to people, it is “only with people from Aboriginal organisations” who she considers “more understanding”.

“She specifically mentions that she ‘doesn’t talk to counsellors or mental health (people)’, because she doesn’t want other people ‘talking about her business’,” the report says.

The woman’s story is among those of 47 First Nations people with disability who provided testimony on their experience of living with disability, including nine who disclosed encounters of violence and trauma.

This included the story of a young child who had died due to an untreated tooth infection.

The  “Something Stronger – Truth-telling on hurt and loss, strength and healing, from First Nations people with disability” report by Dr Scott Avery, has been released by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability on 22 October 2020.

The Royal Commission’s terms of reference lists the “particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” as an item for special consideration for the inquiry.

Dr Avery says First Nations people with disability are less likely to discuss issues of violence and abuse with others outside their community because their experiences are too “raw” to talk about, and often mention the terms “loss” and “lost” in reference to traumatic events.

“They have also been abandoned at critical moments when they sought help and support, so there is an expectation that nothing will change, and putting words to their story will only remind them of their pain.”

He says First Nations people will be more likely to tell their experience of violence and trauma if they are confident they will be believed, not just heard, and also if they believe it will matter for something.

 “As it stands, the issue of violence is a great unspoken area of research and social policy and the First Nations disability community have been silenced because of it,” Dr Avery said.