OBJECTIVE The concept of collective trauma has predominantly been applied in the context of natural and human disasters. This paper seeks to explore whether collective trauma offers a respectful way in which to explore and respond to mental health and wellbeing issues for Aboriginal families and communities. METHOD A review of the international literature was undertaken in order to determine the elements of collective and mass trauma studies which may have relevance for Indigenous communities in Australia. RESULTS Findings support the proposition that the patterns of human responses to disasters, particularly in protracted traumas such as war-zones, shows strong parallels to the contemporary patterns of experience and responses articulated by Aboriginal people affected by colonization and its sequelae in Australia. CONCLUSION Adopting evidence-informed principles of family and community healing developed internationally in disaster situations may provide helpful ways of conceptualizing and responding in a coordinated way to mental health and wellbeing issues for Indigenous people within Australia.