Melbourne, Australia – “My homelessness is directly related to domestic violence, because I would just up and leave,” says 47-year-old Naomi, who asked that we only use her first name.
An Indigenous woman who was raised in inner-city Melbourne, Naomi is a tough talker whose energy and assertion belies years of hardship.
Now living in Queensland, Australia’s most northern state, Naomi describes her experiences of homelessness and family violence on a lengthy phone call.
“Domestic violence was normalised for me because I saw it growing up,” she says matter-of-factly.
Growing up with her Indigenous mother and Irish father, she would experience severe domestic violence, often fuelled by alcohol.
“Mum – don’t get me wrong, I love her with all my heart – but I just didn’t understand growing up as a young girl, she was just crazy,” she says sadly.
“Like, she’d get on the grog [get drunk] and she’d just be absolutely crazy. And her and Dad would just go for the kill, and just get in these drunken rages.”
Naomi did not know it then, but her mother was part of the “Stolen Generations” – Indigenous children who were forcibly taken from their families – and grew up in a mission run by non-Indigenous nuns.
Indigenous children often suffered extreme abuse in such institutions, where conditions were harsh and punishments severe.
Along with the pain of separation from family, the dislocation from their culture and heritage, the trauma that the “Stolen Generations” experienced has often resulted in alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and homelessness, all of which impacts the next generation.