• Norma, a Jagera woman, is evicted from her home on Struggle Street (Struggle Street)Source: Struggle Street
Author and motivational speaker Joe Williams says it's easy to sit back and judge 'bad behaviour', but we should really be healing traumas.
30 Nov 2017 - 2:42 PM  UPDATED 30 Nov 2017 - 2:45 PM

When I was invited to sit in the audience for NITV's #StruggleStreet: The Point Response, I predicted the national commentary that would follow the program and the series itself. Many things came to mind. 

We will see and hear so much online of, ‘Norma should have more control of her kids’, ‘they were doing drugs, it’s against the law’, ‘just go get a job’. And I was right. 

It’s easy for us to sit back and judge individual circumstances based on behaviours, yet what we know about behaviours is that largely, behaviours are a product of environment; so in actual fact, we should be looking to heal the environment as much as we need to heal the individual.

In all the behaviours that have been portrayed during Struggle Street with Norma and her family, I see behaviours that are often set off due to a particular trauma.

In society we see many behaviours from individuals that are at times set off by substance. Substance, often used as a bandaid to cover a type of pain or trauma.

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It's well known and well documented that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had trauma on top of trauma placed on us, spanning 230 years, since colonisation.

During Struggle Street, we also heard of how Norma lost three sons within a 3-month time frame - no mother should never have to endure such pain.

It's alleged there was drug paraphernalia and activities in Norma's home. Addiction is no doubt a product of such pain and trauma.

It is widely known that First Nation Australians are over represented in the justice systems, and suicide rates among the highest in the world.

Events such as Norma’s eviction could quite easily push such statistics even higher:

Had Norma had fought back during the time of her eviction, she could have quite easily have been arrested and become another statistic; Had those feelings of hopelessness escalated, which she expressed, we could quite easily be talking of another First Nation statistic with suicide - which we have seen many examples in the past.

I believe as a society, we have a responsibility to help heal our communities, to ensure such events don’t continue as they are.

I believe as a society, we have a responsibility to help heal our communities, to ensure such events don’t continue as they are. Indeed it will take time and immense work, but healing that trauma is where it starts.

It is easy for us to look at this simply as a family who were evicted, forced from their home by 20-odd police officers. But in actual fact, it's more productive if we see a family who has had trauma upon trauma that has impacted them, like many of our other First Nations families. 

These aren’t excuses, these are factual results from trauma.

We need the services to walk with this family, not turn their backs. Just as Dr Chris Sarra said last night, ‘do things with us, not to us’. In order to assist with the healing process - we need to be putting more funding towards healing traumas within communities, rather then just shipping families around like Norma’s, from community to community, house to house. Because if you fail to heal the trauma, the problems will follow, and they will continue to carry the existing traumas wherever they go - making every place their "Struggle Street". 

The transgenerational trauma that has been afflicted on and impacted on us is immense and is not going to heal by evicting, incarcerating or judging individuals on their behaviours.

Let’s look to identify trauma, and work to heal it.

Joe Williams is a Wiradjuri man, is a former NRL player, professional boxer, author, motivational speaker and influencer. Follow him @joewilliams_tew 


The new series of Struggle Street starts Tuesday 28 November 8.30pm on SBS.  

A two-week event: Tuesday-Thursday. 


NITV's The Point hosted a special program to discuss the issues raised in the documentary on Wednesday 29 November 9.30pm and can be watched On Demand