Combat racism to improve Indigenous health

Inequities in the health of Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders cannot be overcome unless action is taken to reduce racism and other social factors that affect health, according to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA).

The APS and AIPA also urge federal and state governments to implement targeted initiatives that contribute directly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having access to equitable, timely, safe, sustainable, evidence-based psychological care that respects and promotes their cultural integrity, regardless of where they live. The APS seeks commitment and major long-term investment to:

  • address the persistence of racism in the media and in institutions such as the criminal justice and mental health systems
  • develop the resources that any community needs, such as health, education, housing and basic infrastructure
  • adequately resource appropriate training for Indigenous health professionals (For example, ideally there should be about 625 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychologists in Australia. Instead there are only 39.)
  • deliver cultural competence training for all allied health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 
  • ensure that all government initiatives are based, first and foremost, on genuine and meaningful consultation and partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We desperately need leadership on this issue to effect structural and attitudinal change. The government as the ability to be the greatest role model in this instance and has the power to institute change that will have a flow on effect across society,” Professor Littlefield, Executive Director of the APS said.

She said the Australian Psychological Society was making its contribution towards Indigenous justice by auspicing AIPA, co-hosting a Racism Roundtable in 2009, publishing an APS Position Statement on Racism and Prejudice, supporting the development and delivery of cultural competency training for mental health professionals and by developing a Reconciliation Action Plan, but was ready to do more, and always in close partnership with AIPA.

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 19,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples' lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.


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