Improving delivery of dental services to Stolen Generations survivors

The launch of a new Healing Foundation resource, on which the Australian Dental Association (ADA) consulted, Working with the Stolen Generations: understanding trauma, aims to assist dental practitioners in providing effective treatment to the surviving members of the 11% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were removed from their families between 1910 and the 1970s.

Having often suffered systemic abuse, exploitation and racism during childhoods marked by grief and suffering, many survivors are reluctant to visit the dentist, frightened off by “horror stories” heard decades ago.

As a result, their oral health can be deleteriously impacted with many of the survivors triggered by many of the things common to visiting a dental practice such as:

• clinical settings resembling an institution they were placed in as a child

• a tone of voice, such as a person projecting authority

• a look on someone’s face or a gesture.

Working with the Stolen Generations: understanding trauma, which recognizes that the lived experiences of Stolen Generations survivors are as diverse as they are, is intended as a starting point for dental practitioners in improving the way they interact with and treat survivors , some of whom are so anxious about dealing with authority figures that they are unable to sit through a dental consultation and have to leave.

By detailing a number of key ways dental practitioners can positively alter their language and behaviour when dealing with Stolen Generations survivors, such as discussing individual needs and explaining each step of the treatment process, the hope is that survivors will feel more comfortable attending dental practices to receive often long-delayed treatment.

Speaking about the release of this new resource, which took place at Parliament House in Canberra by the Hon Ken Wyatt MP on 5 December, ADA CEO Damian Mitsch said:

“The Australian Dental Association is proud to have supported the Healing Foundation in creating the Working with the Stolen Generations: understanding trauma resource.

“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.”

/ADA Public Release. View in full here.