Lateral violence within the Aboriginal community in Adelaide: “It affects our identity and wellbeing”

Yvonne Clark, Martha Augoustinos, Merridy Malin


The term “lateral violence” describes how members of an oppressed group direct their dissatisfaction inward. This paper reports on qualitative interviews with 30 local Aboriginal participants in Adelaide, South Australia. The purpose was to explore understandings, awareness, experiences, and effects of lateral violence. Most participants completed two questionnaires (the Kessler-5 and negative life events scales) in order to gain further insight into their wellbeing and its association with experiences of lateral violence. Overall, four major interpretative themes emerged from interviews: the predominantly covert and insidious nature of lateral violence; the relationship between racism and lateral violence; challenges to identity as acts of lateral violence; and the destructive effects of lateral violence on wellbeing. The wellbeing scales indicated overall that participants’ psychological distress was in the moderate range, with 29% scoring in the high/very high psychological distress range. Many of the participants with high distress levels relayed traumatic narratives of lateral violence and were exposed to a number of negative life events. It is hoped that by increasing awareness of lateral violence and its effects, this will assist in preventing lateral violence incidences within Indigenous communities.

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