Interview transcript: The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen on ABC Far North ‘Drive’ with Adam Stephen

Transcript: The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Petersen, with Adam Stephen, ABC Radio Far North ‘Drive’

Monday 25 January 2021

Topics: The Healing Foundation Stolen Generations Resource Kit for Teachers and Students; Teaching the story of the Stolen Generations and Australia’s true history


ADAM STEPHEN: There’s a push on at the moment to have the story of the Stolen Generations put into the curriculum for all schools across Australia. The Healing Foundation is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group that partners with communities to try and address the ongoing trauma caused by actions like the forced removal of children from their families.

And the Foundation has developed the resource kit for students and teachers to implement into their curriculum, a way of getting a better understanding for Australia’s complete history.

Fiona Peterson is the CEO of The Healing Foundation. Fiona is with us this afternoon on ABC Radio.

Tell us a little bit about where you think the curriculum lacks at the moment when it comes to the teaching of Indigenous history.

FIONA PETERSON: Yeah, look, the story of Stolen Generations really provides context and meaning for the struggles and inequities that First Nations people face now, and have done since colonisation. So, you know, there’s a lot of progress in the national curriculum – Australian curriculum, I believe it’s called now – where we talk about the cultures, which is great because there are some beautiful strengths in our culture. It is the oldest continuous culture on Earth.

But I think what the viewpoint of Stolen Generation survivors lets our young people know is that healing still needs to happen and it actually can happen.

And that if there was a focus on it and if every Australian understood what their role might be to help heal from past policies that have caused such grief and trauma, then we’re better able to assist with our survivors’ healing journeys.

ADAM STEPHEN: Do you know whether the Stolen Generations is taught in history classes in schools around Australia as it is right now?

FIONA PETERSON: Yeah, look, I believe it is. What’s lesser known in school communities is that link, that intergenerational trauma linked to how it’s experienced today.

So, we know though we’ve lost many of their stolen children, there’s still many here who are still fighting for their basic rights to good health. One in seven have a disability. There are so many statistics that we’re on the wrong side of because of the trauma we carry from events that are more recent than the average Australian understands.

ADAM STEPHEN: You’re really hopeful that there will be a better engagement when it comes to Australia’s full history, as you describe it. What elements of Australia’s history do you think are either glossed over or not given enough acknowledgement in history classes in schools?

FIONA PETERSON: I think it’s about our role and the average Australian’s role in assisting with healing. So, the grief and trauma that resulted from historical child removals is deep, complex, and ongoing, and it is compounded when unacknowledged or dismissed for a more sanitised version of history.

We have had 13,000 downloads of our resource kits and really amazing feedback from school communities, because the onus isn’t on a single teacher to have a deep and comprehensive knowledge of what happened and how it impacts now. It [the resource kit] facilitates the engaging of a survivor. It’s looking at local institutions where children were moved to. And it really is just opening up stories based on fact and evidence around what happened, and that it happened recently. And there’s still trauma that isn’t addressed yet.

UADAM STEPHEN: You’re hearing from Fiona Petersen, CEO of The Healing Foundation.

So, you’ve developed this curriculum that schools can essentially download and use themselves. Is it something you want to see compulsory or would you prefer that it was a thing that schools could opt into because they actually meaningfully want to teach this to their students?

FIONA PETERSON: You know, look, I think our downloads have happened for both those reasons. But we know that our survivors- and our mandate is to assist with healing with survivors – they tell us – and it’s obviously led by them – they tell us that, you know, sharing their story, it really does help with the healing. And they do it so courageously and bravely.

And we marry up all the evidence and data and research to their stories, so people have such a powerful understanding after the lesson plans; after they’ve been through that process our lesson plans provide, they have such a better understanding of how healing should be a focus and what the- like I said, what every Australian should understand so that they can assist with healing.

And we’re talking about young people being the future of our justice, health, and education systems, and so understanding how trauma impacts every human being – and it does – and understanding that the origins of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are from child removals and other policies that were from colonisation.

Then we have a shared understanding as we go forward together, healing the nation.

ADAM STEPHEN: Where can people find more information if they’re interested?

FIONA PETERSON: We have a really fantastic website, just

We have the world’s only healing portal where there are so many resources about trauma and healing. And we have some wonderful animations that are easy to understand and really quick to look at our YouTube channel.

ADAM STEPHEN: So, at the moment, you’ve got lesson plans essentially all the way up to Year 9. You’re working on Years 10 to 12, and people can find more information via the website,

FIONA PETERSON: That’s correct.

ADAM STEPHEN: Fiona Petersen, thank you for joining us.

FIONA PETERSON: Thank you, Adam. Really appreciate it.

ADAM STEPHEN: Appreciate it too. That’s Fiona Petersen, CEO of the Healing Foundation, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group.

To raise awareness about Stolen Generations ahead of Australia Day, The Healing Foundation is sharing this animation about the impacts of intergenerational trauma.

The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to heal trauma caused by the widespread and deliberate disruption of populations, cultures, and languages over 230 years. This includes specific actions like the forced removal of children from their families.

Media contact: Ben O’Halloran – 0474 499 911 or


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