Origins of Lateral Violence in Aboriginal Communities

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Originsof Lateral Violence in Aboriginal Communities

Originsof Lateral Violence in Aboriginal Communities

Agreat deal of the Australia’s social reforms is focused onempowering the aboriginal communities to enable them fit in themainstream societies. Indeed, these efforts are justified consideringvarious existing social and economic disparities between thecommunity and the mainstream society. The community isoverrepresented in the statistics of people with low literacy, healthoutcomes, political representations, among other areas of socialstatus. Consequently, several policies targeting these communitieshave been implemented, touching on diverse sectors such as education,health, politics, and other elements that are critical to theirwelfare. Although many of these social reforms have been lauded to beobjective, and while many of the policies have made several gainsworth celebrating, the state of welfare of the aboriginal communitiesstill leaves out a lot to be desired. Several other challenges needto be addressed. The problem of lateral violence is perhaps one ofthe common challenges the Australian government should confront. Inthis case, a lateral force is form of abuse or assault that occurswithin the aboriginal people. In essence, unlike other types ofviolence, the lateral violence involves the native tormenting theirown citizens. Indeed, part of the process of improving the overallwelfare of the communities is creating harmony and unit in the group.While this perspective has been well taken by the players, theproblem has not received the satisfactory attention, constrained bythe lack of understanding of the nature of the problem and clear-cutframework for combating the issue. This paper explores the nature andorigins of the lateral violence in aboriginal communities.

Torealize the stated objectives, the rest of the paper is organized asfollows. First, the nature and forms of lateral violence areexamined. Subsequently, the question of the origin of lateralviolence is discussed, leading to the conclusion and recommendations.

Formsand Nature of Lateral Violence

Asrevealed in literature, it is indisputable that the rates of lateralviolence among the aboriginal communities are profound. Several formsof lateral violence have been documented. For instance, Tocher (2012)singles out the common forms lateral violence as nonverbalintimidations (for example eye rolling and raising eyebrows),sarcasm, bickering, yelling, and belittling the opinions of otherpeople. Goodleaf and Wanda (2013), on the other hand, lists thecommon forms of lateral violence as blaming, using profanities incommunities, yelling, exaggerating scenarios, vilifications, rumormongering, overlooking certain individuals, bullying, mobbing up onothers and backstabbing, discrimination, bias, stereotyping,favoritism, and physical assault. In this regard, it can be inferredlateral violence takes many different forms than can be imagined.

Whilelateral violence is common in the workplaces, it is also experiencedin other areas such as homes and community settings. The workplaceenvironments in which lateral violence is a common place areprimarily those that lack elaborate organization management systems.The issue is also common in organizations undergoing significantchange and restructuring processes such as merging, acquisition,downsizing, or change in the top management. Any person can be atarget of lateral violence. For instance, many people get intoorganizations with the hopes of finding social support andencouragement. However, they end up finding people who torment andfrustrate them for no apparent reasons. The problem often lies withthe aggressors. Certain conditions and events serve as thepredisposing factors for lateral violence in the workplaces andcommunity settings. In Notably, the victims of lateral violenceinclude new employees to organizations whom others consider as athreat to their position and status quo, employees receivingpromotion and advancement at the workplaces who others perceive to beundeserving, and the members of families that are no longer in power(Goodleaf &amp Wanda 2013). Different accounts have been given onwhy lateral violence happens. However, the most notable statement isthat it occurs because individuals who have encountered oppressionbefore failed to suppress their rage, shame, and anger. Consequently,these feelings become manifested in behaviors such as bitterness,resentment, jealousy, and blame, which are then directed towardsother people. Indeed, many of the aggressors in lateral violence havebeen found to be victims or witnesses of similar abuses in the past(Goodleaf &amp Wanda 2013). Lateral violence in the aborigines takesdifferent dimensions, including gender-based violence, sexualorientation-based violence, rape, gang violence, robbery, cyberbullying, and homicide.

TheCause of Lateral Violence — the Legacy of Colonization

Lateralviolence in the aboriginal communities is primarily a learnedbehavior that traces to the legacies of colonization and relatedpatriarchal approaches of governing a dynamic and developingindigenous society. In particular, the lateral violence has much todo with different forms of colonial treatments such as thediscrimination and racism, and confinement to residential schools.These procedures can be seen to have taken place in two phases. Thefirst step was the actual colonization process, characterized byrobbing the natives of their livelihood, displacing them from theirlands and other forms of related atrocities. The second phaseinvolved a series of efforts to protect and assimilate theaborigines, but which only turned out to be so flawed that theyrobbed the aboriginal communities of their identify, culturalresilience and self-determinism. The effects of these two phases havebeen sealed by other forms of systematic, racial discriminationdirected at the communities.

TheColonization Process

First,it is worth noting that Australia had been occupied by the indigenousgroups before the arrival of the Europeans. The indigenous societieswere oriented towards traditional lifestyle with reserved social,economic, and political lifestyle. While they were contended with thelife, the native community was considered uncivilized in the eyes ofthe colonizers. Because of this arrangement, it was relatively easyfor the nation to be conquered and colonized. Nevertheless, whereasit may be agreeable that most organizations become victims ofcolonization for leading exceptionally traditional social, economic,and political lifestyles, it does not imply that such communitieswarmly welcomed colonialism. If anything, the indigenous peopleresisted. Indeed, according to Tocher (2012),the indigenous people opposed the European settlement in many ways,including fierce fighting. For over a century, the white settlersgrappled with the aboriginal resistance.

Eachregion the Europeans settled, they were met with stiff resistancefrom indigenous groups. This fighting became far as the indigenouspeople began experiencing forcible land displacements. There wereincidences of collaboration, albeit not as pronounced as resistance.Some groups of indigenous people adopted the ways of the colonizerswith relative ease, voluntarily becoming part of settlement schemes,but they were not spared from the legacies of colonization.

Onthe overall, the indigenous groups resisted, especially to thedecision of the colonizer to displace them from their land. Theresistance was fueled by ownership and sharing problems. In thebeginning, the indigenous people and the white settlers hadco-existed peacefully, with the Europeans observing the call to makepeace with the natives. However, later, conflicts ensued followingthe intensified resource sharing and land ownership stalemate. At thetime of colonization, the lifestyle of the indigenous groups wascharacterized by communal ownership, contrasting with the individualproperty of the Europeans. The contact was marked by violence, amongother conflicts. The battles in the frontiers lasted as long as overhundred years. The battles broke out in the frontiers did not onlyresult in the loss of lives among the indigenous people, but alsoamong the white settlers. The same case applied for loss of property.This event implies that the impacts of the resistances wereundoubtedly far-reaching. The resistance and revenge attacks worsenedin the frontiers, in the later stages of European settlement.Anxiety, fear and misunderstanding heightened, resulting to increasedbrutality in the confrontations. However, the loss of land and familyfragmentation among the indigenous people weakened the aboriginalfurther. The white settlers became so overpowering that theindigenous population could not resist anymore. On the indigenouspopulation’s social, economic, and political lifestyles placed themin disadvantaging position. Over time, thecolonial masters forced the aboriginal people to stop engaging intheir traditional and cultural practices that encouraged oneness.Consequently, many individuals continued to struggle with lostidentity and traumatic events, causing them to develop socialpractices and skills that did not appeal to the desired welfare ofthe rest of the society. Because many of these people work insettings that are predominantly aboriginal, such social practiceshave mostly meant that the associated lateral violence are directedat own citizens (Bombay,Matheson &amp Anisman, 2014).

TheColonial Reforms

Withthe expanding settlements of the whites and the increasing clashes atthe frontiers, the attitudes of the Europeans towards the aboriginalsstarted worsening over time. The reprisals and punitive measuresdirected at the indigenous communities became common. Increasingnumbers of the aboriginals were massacred, with the Myall CreekMassacre of 1838 being the most notable. Although there is anevidence of some = European governors trying to improve the welfareof the Aborigines at the time, the prevailing legal environment didnot provide an enabling environment to assure the desired liberty.The depredations and punishment continued for the rest of thecenturies, especially in the northern territories.

Thereductions of the aboriginal population resulting from massacres andmisplacement were accompanied by growing consciousness regarding theneed to protect the indigenous people form different forms ofunwarranted mistreatment. Some reforms on the regulation of labor inthe pastoral areas were developed to improve the welfare of thecommunity. The House of Commons Select Committee on Aboriginesrecommended the need for having missionaries for the community, aswell as develop some laws for their protection. Indeed, theprotectors for the aborigines were appointed in different regionssuch as the South Australia, Wales, and New South Wales. Their rolewas to identify the annihilating practices and protect the aboriginesfrom abuses while enhancing their welfare through provides basicsocial amenities such as medicine, blankets, and rations. However,the legal structure accorded them limited formal powers to implementsignificant changes. After only a few years, the positions wereremoved. The later periods saw the development of relativelyextensive policies aimed at protecting the aborigines but had flawedpremises. For instance, part of the new reforms was segregating andisolating the full-flood aborigines and restricting their contactwith others, while trying to assimilate the half-castes. The rites ofpassage were limited, including the rights of marriage. Thefull-flood aborigines were allowed to carry on with the traditionalpractices, although the missions entrusted to take care of theirwelfare were hostile to their cultural practices. The legislationsadvocating for protection were enacted in different territories, forinstance, Victoria in 1867, Western Australia in 1886, and New SouthWales in 1909. These areas also set up the government settlements andchurch missions, in which some aboriginal communities were moved.Nevertheless, the some special laws restricted their movements,employment, and consumption of alcohol. To a certain extent, thegovernment embraced the systematic efforts of creating boardinghouses and isolating children from their parents, focusing onassimilating them to the European lifestyles. The policies ofprotection were further strengthened and scope of restrictions andcontrols enhanced in the periods that followed(Clark, 2013).

Theseprotection policies would later receive criticisms, catalyzed by thecontinuing difficulties facing the aborigines and worseningtreatment. The society started demanding for the states to increasetheir involvement in the welfare of the aborigines. The subsequentreforms focused on assimilating the aborigines as a way of improvingtheir well-being. However, the assimilation process would exclude thefull bloodlines, focusing on the half-castes. In this regard, theassimilation can be seen as a policy that focused on protecting thefuture of the aborigines, especially the half-castes in the areas ofEuropean settlements. In the 1950s, however, the assimilation wasmade inclusive to all the aborigines. These reforms meant that theall the aborigines would be granted the same status and livingconditions as other Australians, enjoying the standard privileges andrights. The government embarked on concerted efforts to assimilatethe community, including increasing the expenditure in education,health, and housing. As of the 1960s, several discriminative laws hadbeen reviewed and abolished. The district was entitled socialsecurity benefits. The Commonwealth Government also established theOffice of Aboriginal Affairs, which it entrusted to implementdifferent programs to assist the aborigines (Clark,2013).

Moreover,although these developments were objective, the notion ofeffectiveness of assimilation aroused different questions. Inparticular, the policies overlooked the overall resilience and valuesof the culture of the aboriginal people. It also failed to considerwhether the Aborigines needed to maintain their own culture andunifying traditional practices. The policies were mainly based on theassumptions that the aborigines would be willing to live like theEuropeans. Therefore, many of these developments robbed the communityof their unifying identity that would have assured their resiliencefor coping different sphere of life such as religions, government andhealth care practices. These legacies of colonization have continuedaffecting the aboriginal communities in various ways and can be seento blame for the rampant forms of lateral violence that is beingevidenced currently (Archibald, 2006). Archibald (2006) discussesphysical and sexual abuse that was suffered by Aboriginal children inAustralia, Greenland, and the United States. According to the author,the abuse left scars, which have been passed from one generation toanother. The article argues that colonization continued along variouspaths in New Zealand, Greenland, Australia, and the United States.Colonization legacy is seen to have different phases, which includedenial of indigenous culture, damage of physical symbols of culture,tokenism, and denigration of indigenous belief systems.

ModernRacial Discrimination and Exclusion

Althoughvarious policies have been developed to improve the social welfare ofthe aboriginal communities, different racial excluding practices andother forms of discrimination are still common. Racial discriminationis marked by various social and economic disparities. For instance,the communities are underrepresented in the high political positionand well paying jobs. These differences in incomes and politicalparticipation are reflected in different areas such as poor healthand low literacy levels, in which the communities are adverselyoverrepresented. Because of the poor socioeconomic position, some ofthe community members have been turning to different forms of socialdeviance for survival, include crimes and lateral violence. As aresult, many of them overrepresented in incarceration facilities.Nevertheless, it is also argued that the group is represented in theconfinement facilities because of racial profiling and targeting(Clark,2013).

Moreover,the politics of racism in Australia are all too familiar. Racism onlybecomes sensitive when a member of one race is pinned down by amember of another race so that he is unable to achieve the targetedclass interests. The truth, however, is that this pinning down occursat all levels of human relations, including within races where it isnot treated to be sensitive. Indeed, racism is largely a sensitiveissue within the United States because some races are overrepresentedin certain powerful social and economic positions than others. At thesame time, those who happen to be overrepresented in the powerfulsocial and economic positions are underrepresented at lowerpositions. Therefore, the sensitivity of racism plays out stronglywhen social and economic there are differences in privilegeentitlements between groups.

Theissue of racism, therefore, is often cited so that the entire classstruggles can be seen to be legitimate so that the majority cansupport it, yet the essence is always to protect the interests ofthose who are fighting for class. Indeed, when racism is mentioned,it will always be coming from groups of people who are discontentedby the allocation of privileges by which some people from anotherrace seem to enjoy more than they do. This observation is plausiblebecause the same form of disparities in the enjoyment of theseprivileges is often witnessed among people belonging to the samerace, where it is not always taken to be sensitive. Therefore, to alarge degree, it is also plausible to argue that racism has nothingmuch to do with attitudes and stereotyped perceptions that peoplefrom one group have for another race, but the discontent peoplereserve for disparities in resource and power allocation, andprivilege entitlements (Goodleaf &amp Wanda 2013). The case of theAustralian environment fits perfectly into this theory.


Inconclusion, the aim of this paper has been to explore the origins oflateral violence experienced in the aboriginal communities. Thediscussions has revealed that, certainly, the problem is particularlyrampant and characterized by different forms of abuses such as sarcasm, bickering, belittling the opinions of other people, blaming,using profanities in communities, yelling, exaggerating scenarios,vilifications of other people, rumor mongering, overlooking certainindividuals, bullying and physical assault, among others. Moreover,there is no limit as to whom the violence might target —whilelateral violence is common in the workplaces, it is also experiencedin other areas such as homes and community settings. The workplaceenvironments in which lateral force has been found to be common areprimarily those that lack elaborate organization management systems,as well as the settings characterized by tremendous grouprestructuring and change in the control.

Thediscussion has further revealed that the problem of lateral violenceamong the aboriginal communities was born out of systematic, coloniallegacies. The lateral forceis primarily a learned behavior that traces to the legacies ofcolonization and related patriarchal approaches of governing thedynamic aboriginal communities. Moreover, the problem has much to dowith different forms of colonial treatments such as the racialdiscrimination and confinement to residential schools. The colonialgovernment forbade the rites of passage, destabilizing the resilienceand self-determinism structures that would have enabled thecommunities to fit well into the modern world. While the governmenttried to address the problem through policy reforms such asassimilation, such efforts failed to considerwhether the Aborigines needed to maintain their own culture andunifying traditional practices. The systems were mainly based on theassumptions that the aborigines would be willing to live in themainstream society.

Therefore,the process of addressing lateral violence among the aboriginalcommunities is by going back and confronting the legacies ofcolonization. In part, getting beyond lateral violence will need totake into account the issues of racism and discrimination. Thisperspective alludes to the essence of racial mainstreaming. Ethnicmainstreaming, in this case, is an approach that strives to reconcileethnic conflicts by acknowledging that racial discrimination hasalready done so much harm in excluding certain communities. This viewpaves the way to the conclusion that the process of addressing theselegacies of racism will then need to start by considering the socialand economic position of diverse communities to determine the extentof exercising discriminate practices of allocating resources andpower to achieve the desired balance. Blackmun’s assertioncontrasts with that held by people who strive to be ‘color blind’in the sense that it goes beyond conceptualizing the problem as asimple, present equality challenge, to the actual historical rootcause. Therefore, the results of these assertions are also expectedto differ significantly. The outcome the claims will most likelysucceed in reversing the privileges that some racial groups enjoyover others because of the historical injustices and achieveequality. The results of ‘color blind’ will only focus onminimizing conflicts over present sharing resources and power, butwill fail to achieve equality because does not say much aboutaddressing the haunting past. In retrospect, the colorblind approachonly serves to safeguard the position of those who continue to enjoyprivileges because of past injustices. Therefore, the colorblindapproach is far removed from equality practices because it fails thefairness test. In particular, it legitimates some racial groups toenjoy privileges resulting from past injustices on the pretext ofequality for current relational developments. The racialmainstreaming process should be able to acknowledge that addressinglateral violence touches on different social and economic aspects andconsider integrating them into reform policies. Such a processrequires leadership commitment and concerted efforts from variousplayers.


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Goodleaf,S. &amp Wanda, G. (2013). The Frontline of Revitalization:Influences Impacting Aboriginal Helpers. FirstPeoples Child and Family Review4(2): 23-27

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