A Traumatic birth
Previous histories have not explored the incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Australian convict history and the effect on the Australian psyche. In A Traumatic Birth I have investigated psychic injury inflicted on female convicts in Van Diemen Land.This had an ‘intergenerational’ effect causing the development of resilience but sometimes a dark side in the minds of offspring. The book is also a ‘social history’, starting with the daily life of Peggie O’Hara, a peasant in a Quaker village in Ireland. I then followed Peggie’s life after she was transported to Van Diemen’s Land and to the Victorian Goldfields. Peggie’s descendants were pioneers in the Australian Outback and I have included a first-hand account of life on a Selection, describing what it was like to live in a slab-hut and experience isolation and drought. I have consulted with recognised experts such as historian Dr Alison Alexander, well known for her work on Tasmanian convict history and psychiatrist Professor Jayashri Kulkarni of Monash University. Both support my conclusions. I believe that Australians have a special form of resilience born during convict times. Examples of this resilience are seen in critical points of our history, the Eureka Stockade, the Outback and Gallipoli, all places where Peggie or her descendants were present
This book gives an important insight into the Australian psyche. The title ‘A Traumatic Birth’ encapsulates a compelling thesis that many Australian convicts experienced significant levels of mental trauma during the process of Transportation and their early years in the country. The effects of this trauma ripple down the generations with psychological repercussions, including difficulties with relationships and in nurturing children. The psychological scars and the compensating resilience and coping mechanisms developed by the convicts are part of the early foundations of the nation, one born through trauma.