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OPINION

“Lateral violence … is created by experiences of powerlessness and oppression. It plays out in our families and communities through behaviours such as gossiping, jealousy, bullying, shaming, social exclusion, family feuding, organisational conflict and physical violence.” “Lateral violence occurs because we are living within a society that is not designed for our way of doing things.” — Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission. Mr Gooda is a descendent of the Gangulu people of central Queensland.

Quandamooka’s success in soothing lateral violence he Quandamooka native title determination process has been hailed as a positive example to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities wanting to address “lateral violence”. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Mick Gooda, says lateral violence takes the form of gossiping, jealousy, bullying, shaming, social exclusion, family feuding, organisational conflict and physical violence – and is preventing Indigenous communities from closing the gap between themselves and the broader Australian community. “We need to close the gap,” he said “… but we cannot do this if we continue to harm each other with lateral violence.” In a community guide to his 2011 Social Justice and Native Title Reports, Mr Gooda says that the risk of ignoring lateral violence is too great. He says lateral violence, also known as horizontal or intra-racial violence, has its roots in colonisation, brought about by the powerlessness, diminishing traditional roles and attacks on culture and humanity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that came with European settlement. “This behaviour is often the result of

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AUTUMN 2012

disadvantage, discrimination and oppression,” he says. “Although lateral violence has its roots in our history, it thrives today because power imbalances, control by others, identity conflict, negative stereotypes and trauma continue to feed it. “Lateral violence is also linked to negative stereotypes that create low self-esteem. This in turn reinforces the feelings of powerlessness that engender lateral violence. If we feel badly about ourselves, if we believe the negative stereotypes and accept a victim mentality, then we are more likely to lash out in lateral violence.” Mr Gooda is urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start a conversation about lateral violence in their own community and in his guide cites the Quandamooka Peoples claim for native title over their lands and waters, as an example of a community successfully dealing with lateral violence. Although the 4 July 2011 native title determination marked the first native title determination in southern Queensland, the case study in the Community Guide said: “This positive outcome did not reflect the long and at times, difficult process that was experienced by the native title claim group.” It went on to say that “Native title meetings

provided another forum for old fights about [sand] mining to take on a renewed energy.” “Although native title can generate positive outcomes for our communities, these outcomes often do not occur because lateral violence fragments our communities as we navigate the native title system,” Mr Gooda said. He said the Quandamooka people dealt with lateral violence by developing a clear and transparent decision-making process. “The Quandamooka Peoples have ensured that this inclusive structure of decisionmaking continues beyond the native title determination process, by establishing the Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation to manage their native title rights,” he said. Mr Gooda says that while governments have played a role in creating environments that breed lateral violence, they should not intervene to fix “internal relationships, within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. “Unfortunately, governments continue to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage from a deficit-based approach – addressing the ‘Indigenous problem’,” he said. “Governments need to move to seeing us as capable and resilient, and work in an empowering way to prevent the conditions that can lead to lateral violence.”

STRADDIE ISLAND NEWS 27

Quandamooka's success in soothing lateral violence  

The Quandamooka Native Title determination process has been hailed as a positive example to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitie...

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