The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth with Lish Fejer, ABC Radio Canberra ‘Breakfast’



Interview: The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth with Lish Fejer, ABC Radio Canberra ‘Breakfast’, Thursday 12 March 2021

Topics: The Victorian Truth and Justice Process; truth telling, teaching Australia’s true history in schools; trauma-aware and healing-informed practice


LISH FEJER: Now, the Victorian Government, you might have heard in the news this week, has launched a nation first inquiry into injustices experienced by Aboriginal people since colonisation.

Now, the inquiry will be independent of government and have the powers of a royal commission. And it’s going to look at injustices against Aboriginal Victorians across all aspects of social, political, cultural, and economic life. And it’s going to act as a guide to help Victoria’s treaty negotiations with its Aboriginal communities.

Joining me this morning on ABC Radio Canberra is Fiona Petersen. She’s the CEO of the Healing Foundation. Hello, Fiona.

FIONA CORNFORTH: Hello, how are you?

LISH FEJER: What’s your response to this? And what do we need to see on a bigger level?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Look, we really welcome this. We know, having been operating for 11 years now, and having a look at all the evidence and the research, that truth telling is a major part of healing. And so, as an organisation with the mandate to lead the healing nationally, we really welcome what’s been announced in Victoria.

LISH FEJER: What is the Healing Foundation? Can you just take us back all those years?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Yeah, sure. We were we were set up after Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to Stolen Generations and the families and communities for the policies of of colonisation that led to grief and trauma, such as the removal of children.

And we know now that around a third of Aboriginal peoples in Australia were either removed or had a parent that was removed. And so, there’s a trauma there that’s unresolved in many cases, and that is carried through generations. So, our big job is to raise awareness around that trauma that’s unresolved and look at what’s going to work across the country for healing for our communities.

LISH FEJER: And truth telling, as you say, Fiona, is such a huge part of this, just being able to speak that truth and be heard, as is happening in Victoria. What will it take to get this done across Australia?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Oh, I think just very similar steps across Australia, an acknowledgement that some pretty horrific things happened. And for the most part there’s been a sweeping under the rug or, you know, there’s been, I think, a common response is that it either didn’t happen or we should just move on and forget it happened.

LISH FEJER: Why do you think that is?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Well, it’s a few things. We’ve got a really strong push now in schools to have Stolen Generation survivor stories told in schools. We have a schools resource kit now. It has over 13,000 downloads, which is really encouraging. But when you talk to people of my generation and the generation before, they say we weren’t taught this in school, we were never exposed to this information. And so that’s a big part of it, because if you’re not taught it then where else are you going to find out?

LISH FEJER: Yeah, and that’s a big part of it. It’s 6:45. My guest is Fiona Petersen, CEO of the Healing Foundation. If we can get it done in Victoria, in Australia, what difference will it make to Aboriginal people?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Oh, well, we know that feeling heard and feeling validated goes a long way. But then what we try to do, workforce by workforce, sector by sector, is help people understand what they can do every day in their jobs, in their daily lives, to contribute to healing. And this is about being trauma-aware and healing-informed.

And it just takes a little shift in the way that we behave, the way we acknowledge that a third, if not more, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples carry this trauma. It means that when they interact with systems that weren’t built with them in mind, it’s re-traumatising. And if we’re all aware of what needs to happen for healing to take place and our contribution to that, it means that healing can actually happen for our families who continue to suffer.

LISH FEJER: Fiona Cornforth, thanks for joining me this morning.


LISH FEJER: Fiona Petersen, CEO of The Healing Foundation.

To raise awareness about Stolen Generations, 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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