The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth with Sonya Feldhoff, ABC Radio Adelaide Afternoons


The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth with Sonya Feldhoff, ABC Radio Adelaide Afternoons


Wednesday 26 May 2021

Topics: National Sorry Day; Stolen Generations; Healing

SONYA FELDHOFF: Let’s return now on National Sorry Day to Fiona Cornforth, CEO of the Healing Foundation. Fiona, we’ve been hearing from Rosemary how important it was for her, and how she has found it’s been very important for lots of others to be telling their story, for it being heard by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike. Fiona, what role do you believe that everyone has in Sorry Day, either Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Well, what we know from the evidence, from decades of work in the area, what we know is that trauma is a human experience, and so we really understand that the message they give the most traction for is that we’ve been traumatised by policies of colonisation, but we can overcome the trauma too.

And we have beautiful elements in our culture that have always kept us safe and well. And if we can tap into those and be supported to tap into those again, then you know, that’s where healing happens. But it can’t just be on our communities to do the heavy lifting. That hasn’t worked. We know that. The evidence points to that as well. Every interaction, every setting that our survivors show up to, and their descendants, any interaction they have with a service or system with a program or some kind of initiative, it has to be a warm interaction. It has to be an interaction with someone who understands how trauma plays out through someone’s life and how they can support someone in not just coping with that trauma … but overcoming it.

And, you know, it goes to equity approaches as well, but also changes in behaviour where we know one in three of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population were either removed or had a parent who was removed. And this is a national figure. But it shows the extent of our trauma experiences. And we know the connection now between historical and contemporary trauma, and we must address it.

SONYA FELDHOFF: I have a text here from someone who says: look, how many times do we have to say sorry before we can all move on? And you know, I’m just reading the text out there, but you’d be aware that is something that you’ve heard before, I’m sure. What you’re describing is another step, though, aren’t you? That it’s not just about saying sorry, it’s about actively seeking out the stories, hearing people’s stories, and seeing it for what it is.

FIONA CORNFORTH: Absolutely. It’s more than a word. And so, The Healing Foundation, based on evidence of talking about being trauma-aware and healing-informed, and the healing informed, that when you’re healing informed, you know what needs to happen, what those effective solutions are that lead to healing, and you know your role in enacting those effective solutions. So, look, to say sorry is one thing, but some of the survivors we talked to say, well, look, we forgave before we heard sorry. We just want to live well and at peace. And we just want to know our children and their children will be stronger and will not have to face any harm or trauma in their lives.

SONYA FELDHOFF: So, would it be fair to say that any efforts to try to restore the wellbeing of Aboriginal people, to strengthen their spirit, all of those things are things that we can all take a role in?

FIONA CORNFORTH: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And it does take a mindset shift and a change in approach in many instances, but it is unresolved trauma, and we know in many cases, but we’re so lucky. We’re the longest surviving, thriving civilisation because of our cultures. And despite what’s happened, we still know how to heal. And, in fact, the collective healing that’s happened. The way we led the protection of our community through the pandemic. The way we protect and heal country through fire and bushfire management. These are things that the whole Australian community can benefit from. We just need that faith and confidence and that privileging of our knowledge, our ways, and our being, because when we do that, that’s what makes our healing programs on the ground so very successful.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Fiona, thank you for joining us and helping us mark National Sorry Day today. Fiona Cornforth is CEO of The Healing Foundation.

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth will be addressing the National Press Club of Australia on 2 June. Details are available here:

To raise awareness about intergenerational trauma, The Healing Foundation is sharing this animation:

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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