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Listen to Indigenous voices this Australia Day, say psychologists

Listen to Indigenous voices this Australia Day, say psychologists

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) and Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) urge all Australians to engage in respectful debate about Australia Day.

Both organisations are concerned about the tone of public debate, particularly on social media, saying it is harmful to the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians who already suffer psychological distress at three times the rate of other Australians. 

AIPA Chair Tania Dalton notes the heightened emotion around the Australia Day debate and says, “Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people view this date as culturally sensitive, and support changing the date to one that is more inclusive of all Australians.”

APS President Anthony Cichello says, “The APS strongly supports celebrating our multicultural Australian society, while considering the views of Indigenous Australians as the original custodians of the land.” 

“Psychologists know that words can hurt. It is critical that Australians debate important issues constructively.”

The APS and AIPA have developed self-care tips to help Australians cope if they are affected by the heated debate. 

  • Tune in. Tune into your feelings such as anger and distress.  Acknowledge these emotions both to yourself and others. Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust.
  • Take a break. If you feel distressed by the public debate and social media posts consider limiting your feeds to stem the flow of divisive posts or log-off social media.
  • Look after yourself.  Help combat tension and fatigue by making time to do things you enjoy.  Take care to eat well, stay hydrated, exercise and get good sleep.
  • Channel your energy. Put your energy into positive actions. If you feel passionately about an issue get informed and get involved.
  • Support each other. If you see cyber harassment, bullying or racism don’t ignore it.  Report it and offer your support.
  • Connect with others. Connect with your family and friends, this grounds us as community members,
  • Connect with your community. Strong social and emotional wellbeing maintains our wellbeing through connections to body, mind and emotions, spirituality, land, community, families and culture.
  • It’s okay not to talk. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about an issue it’s okay not to.


Tip sheet: Stay cool when the debate is hot

Links :

APS Australia Day Statement

The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA)

APS apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Notes to the editor:

Psychologists from the APS and AIPA are available for interview

For more information, or to arrange an interview call the APS Media team on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email media@psychology.org.au. Find the APS Media team on Twitter: @AustPsych

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 23,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.