Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing

30 April 2021

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia take a holistic view of health and wellbeing. This holistic view incorporates the physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of individuals and their communities.

The NMHCCF recognises the importance of continued connection to culture, country and community for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  This connection forms the basis of the health, social and emotional wellbeing of their communities.

Impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Colonisation has severely impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It has resulted in:

  • Relocation of First Nations people to missions and reserves
  • Loss of country, cultural practice and language
  • Grief and trauma resulting from the removal of children
  • Dominance of Eurocentric mainstream culture
  • Ongoing racism
  • Continued socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Related multi-generational and ongoing trauma

Furthermore, the NMHCCF recognises the growing gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-indigenous people in Australia in relation to reported mental health and related outcomes.

Any actions moving forward must be informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. It must be ensured that culturally appropriate mental health services are tailored to meet their cultural perspectives.  Federal and State Governments must do this in cooperation and collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by these services.

NMHCCF recommends

There is a great need to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce, including the training and employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peer workers.  

The NMHCCF believes that services need to be aware of the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership.  This will ensure highest attainable standards of mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.  A better understanding of the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders must start with openness to a different approach to recovery.  This understanding requires the increased inclusion of First Nations people in co-design, collaboration and research.

Download the full advoacy brief

Advocacy Brief - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing