Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

New health guidelines to help practitioners better treat Stolen Generations survivors

By Dental Tribune International
January 08, 2020

SYDNEY, Australia: Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders who were, as children, forcibly taken from their families between 1910 and 1970 are known as the Stolen Generations. Those who are still alive today can struggle with the trauma of their experience, often neglecting their oral health owing to fear and anxiety of dental practices. To help combat this, a new set of helpful guidelines was recently launched by the Healing Foundation to help dental practitioners, doctors and aged-care workers better communicate with the remaining survivors in a practice setting.

According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare analysis, there are over 17,000 Stolen Generations survivors in Australia today, and by 2023, all will be aged over 50 and eligible for aged care. Many are hesitant to seek help owing to issues such as fear of the unknown and fear of retriggering the systematic abuse that many suffered from institutions supposedly providing care, and

the guidelines are specifically aimed to help paint a new picture in the minds of these people.

Speaking about the collaboration, Healing Foundation Chair Prof. Steve Larkin said, “The development of the fact sheets has been guided by Stolen Generations survivors: they identified the key issues encountered when dealing with GPs, dentists and aged-care providers, what is helpful and what should be avoided.”

One of those survivors taking part was Geoff Cooper. Cooper hopes the fact sheets can create greater awareness about the best ways to provide services to the Stolen Generations without triggering trauma. “Little changes can make a big difference to how we feel when we walk in to a service. Things like not making us talk about bad stuff that’s happened to us if we don’t want to, and explaining what you’re going to do before you do it so we aren’t caught off guard [help].”

The resources are part of the Healing Foundation’s action plan for healing project. Funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2017 after the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, which highlighted the contemporary needs of the Stolen Generations and their descendants, this is another step towards helping correct some of the wrongdoings.

Partnering in the initiative are the Australian Dental Association (ADA), the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and Aged and Community Services Australia. ADA CEO Damian Mitsch said that the organisation was proud to have supported the creation of the dental guidelines. “This resource will go a long way in providing education and helpful tips to guide dental practitioners in providing effective dental care to Stolen Generations survivors.”

The dental guidelines have already been well received by the healthcare sector, and Larkin said, “We’ve been delighted with the level of interest the resources are already receiving from the target sectors, and are excited to see the materials taken up at the practice and provider level nationally.”

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