Turning dreams into nightmares and nightmares into dreams

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Publication details

Atkinson, J & Woods, G 2008, 'Turning dreams into nightmares and nightmares into dreams', Borderlands, vol. 7, no. 2.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed



Indigenous peoples of Australia have always had laws, processes and procedures that address, govern and control violent behaviours both at the interpersonal and group levels. In contrast to, and in ignorance of these controls on violence the colonising groups that came to Australia, and subsequently the resident colonial governance structures have continuously and consistently used violence as a tool to both suppress and re-shape Indigenous individuals and societies. These violence enforcing and violence making tools have three components: physical violence; structural—institutional violence; and psycho-social dominance. Sexual violence in particular is prominent in this process and has proved to be a deeply traumatic and wide ranging experience for Indigenous peoples as individuals, families and communities.

The violence of Australian colonisation has been underpinned and fuelled by an on-going ideology of racism that allows the coloniser to define and redefine the Indigenous subject, and hence the Indigenous body, around a set of attributes and behaviours that explain and ultimately justify the need for violence or the inevitability of violence. To this end multiple layers of violence have been woven through the very fabric of Indigenous life experience creating huge potential for an ongoing series of life crisis at the individual, family and community level. Today we are witnessing a crisis of trauma and violence borne of colonising processes that are still not being adequately named, recognized, challenged, and most importantly attended to through state supported ‘educaring’ preventions and interventions. Hence the painful and difficult job of healing remains with Indigenous peoples, generally unsupported by the state, thus continuing its implication in its own violence within the nightmares it has created for its Indigenous subjects.

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