This week I made my welcome return back to Canberra where I reconnected with our Mental Health Australia team.
It was great to have the opportunity to sit down, reflect on my travels over the last weeks, and share some of the stories and my experiences from the Indigenous Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Conference in Darwin and the people I had the privilege to meet in the mental health system in Darwin.
The conference was the first I have ever attended where there were more First Nations attendees than non-Indigenous participants, and it was simply awe-inspiring and a real honour to be with such a powerful and committed group of people.
Conference participants delved deep into the process of truth-telling, healing, and bringing different world views together respectfully.
There was a lot of discussion about the impacts of intergenerational trauma, and the significance of connection to country and culture – particularly the importance of birthing on Country and connection to culture in the early years of life.
We know that culture is central to a child’s individuality, identity and sense of belonging. For First Nations people, culture is a connection that extends beyond personal relationships with people, it encompasses relationships with nature, astronomy, ancestry and the past – land, sea, fire and sky are central to wellbeing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context, that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. These concepts of social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and healing should be recognised across all parts of the Australian health system, and in some circumstances support specialised areas of practice.
As we come to the end of NAIDOC week for 2022, let’s continue to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! for systemic change.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander presence and leadership is required across all parts of the Australian mental health system for it to adapt to, and be accountable to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the achievement of the highest attainable standard of mental health and suicide prevention outcomes.
Now is the time to support and secure institutional, structural, collaborative, and cooperative reforms. And we need to do this together. The relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non‑Indigenous Australians must be based on truth, justice, equity, and the proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights.
The last line of the Uluru Statement From the Heart says, “We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
This is a welcoming invitation to come together, and a powerful call to action.
Dr Leanne Beagley