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InPsych 2013 | Vol 35

August | Issue 4

Cover feature : Psychological perspectives on racism

APS contributions to combating racism

Over the past 20 years, the APS has made a number of contributions to increasing public awareness of the damaging effects of racial and ethnic prejudice in Australia. The pervasive effects of cultural and institutionalised racism within professions, disciplines and institutions are often invisible, and can take the form of the dominant group being seen as normal or the standard against which all else are judged, while those who are not part of the dominant group are viewed as abnormal and in need of correction. APS initiatives in the area of racism not only contribute to the public interest, but ideally increase psychologists’ own sensitivity and reduce professional ignorance about various forms of present-day racism.

One of the first APS position papers was Racism and prejudice (Sanson, Augoustinos, Gridley, Kyrios, Reser & Turner, 1998), which provided an overview of psychological theory, research and practice in the field. The paper aimed to increase understanding of these issues among psychologists, policy makers and the public.

In 2009 the APS, together with the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA), co-hosted the National Research Roundtable on Racism towards Indigenous Australians, alongside several other key organisations. Initiated by Professor Pat Dudgeon FAPS, the two-day meeting at the University of Western Australia brought together over 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders and scholars, with the aim of gathering high quality interdisciplinary research and anti-racism strategies to make recommendations to government. Among the immediate outcomes were a group submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, a Declaration, and letters to government ministers.

Many psychologists remain concerned at the levels of racism that underpin much of the media discussion and institutional responses to issues such as ‘border protection’, and the APS has been active in developing position statements and media releases in this area.
Read more about APS initiatives on racism and prejudice at www.psychology.org.au/community/public-interest/racism/

Update on the APS Reconciliation Action Plan

The APS signed its statement of commitment to developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at the 2011 APS Annual Conference, embarking on an initiative to consolidate and extend Australian psychology’s engagement with the Indigenous people of our country. A diverse working group has developed a dynamic and acheivable three-year RAP for the broad APS organisation, organised within the framework developed by Reconciliation Australia across four priority areas: Respectful relationships; Governance; Cultural competence; and Indigenous Education and Employment. Many significant activities and achievements have been accomplished in each of these priority areas. Some recent acheivements are detailed below.

Respectful relationships

  • The guide, APS Cultural Protocols for Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Country, Traditional Owners and Elders, was developed in 2013 to support APS members and staff with its implementation at face-to-face meetings.
  • A range of resources to support the RAP and its targets have been developed including: the APS RAP website; a Self Reflection Tool; and the Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal Australia website.


  • The APS continues to work in close partnership and collaboration with AIPA, including supporting its role as the lead organisation in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group to the Australian Government.
  • The APS and AIPA have worked together on a number of reviews and submissions including: APS Ethical Guidelines on working with Indigenous people; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill 2012; Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012; and APAC Standards Review 2012-13.

Cultural competence

  • The resource, Doing reconciliation locally: RAP implementation tips for APS Member Groups, has been developed for APS Member Groups.
  • AIPA (under the auspices of the APS) has been contracted by the Australian Government to deliver cultural competence workshops for psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and OTs providing mental health services.

Indigenous education and employment

  • Fund raising for the APS Bendi Lango Indigenous postgraduate psychology student bursaries, established in 2006 with the aim of increasing the number of Indigenous psychologists, has been upgraded to enable members to donate funds during membership renewal and online at any time. The fund has supported four students in the past two years.
  • The APS is a partner in a project headed by Professor Pat Dudgeon FAPS that has received an Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) Grant to facilitate curricular approaches to increasing cultural competence and Indigenous participation in psychology education and training.

For the full report on the APS RAP achievements thus far and other information about the RAP, go to www.psychology.org.au/reconciliation/


Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on August 2013. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.