Indigenous mental health sector braces for first “Australia Day” post-Voice referendum
Giovanni Torre – January 22, 2024
Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and its members say they are bracing for an increase in racism, bigotry, and discriminatory rhetoric as the first Invasion Day / Australia Day after the defeat of the Voice to Parliament draws near.
Gayaa Dhuwi is the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, and suicide prevention. Its members are not-for-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and mental health peak bodies who collectively represent more than 200 organisations and 2,500 individuals.
Gayaa Dhuwi chief executive Rachel Fishlock said as January 26 looms, the organisation is concerned about the impact an increase in racism and potential re-ignition of the debate about the Voice to Parliament Referendum will have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Racism is a significant cause of distress for our people and for their hesitation to interact with health services,” she said.
“We know that the lack of cultural safety in mainstream organisations leads to increased distress, which is particularly concerning during times of heightened distress, such as the Australia Day period”.
Gayaa Dhuwi has released a series of resources to help support the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: tips for practicing self-care; tips for staying healthy and looking after yourself; and a webinar on social and emotional wellbeing in the post-referendum landscape.
Gayaa Dhuwi chairperson Professor Helen Milroy said it is “important that mob are mindful of how they’re feeling and reach out to friends, family, or professional, culturally safe support services if they’re feeling distressed during the Australia Day period”.
“We’ve previously expressed our concern about the impact of the referendum on the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and we want to make sure – as debate is no doubt reignited around Australia Day – mob are aware of the increased risk of distress,” she said.
“We encourage mob to seek support and connection during this time – particularly through embracing cultural healing practices. We support a focus on self-care activities and being mindful of media use, particularly the use of social media platforms that can exacerbate anxiety and stress”.
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