NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Daffodil Day – cancer awareness

Feature tile - Daffodil Day - Aboriginal flag with yellow daffodil as centre

Every day around five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diagnosed with cancer. Aboriginal and Torres Islander people have a slightly higher rate of cancer diagnosis, however are approximately 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than other Australians (Reference: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 – Cancer series no.119. Cat. no. CAN 123).

The daffodil is recognised internationally as the symbol of hope for all people affected by cancer. Cancer Council chose it as its emblem as the bright yellow colouring heralds the return of spring, representing new life and growth. Daffodil Day is Cancer Council’s most iconic and much-loved fundraising campaign. Funds raised this Daffodil Day Appeal will help fund researchers dedicated to discovering the next cancer breakthroughs, including less harsh cancer treatments.

To visit the Cancer Council Daffodil Day Appeal website click here.

ACCHOs’ wealth of expertise much to offer

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector has a wealth of expertise in addressing the social and cultural determinants of health, responsive service development, and providing culturally safe care. The wider health sector needs to gain a deeper understanding of the contributions of the ACCHO sector.

Cover image from the report: Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in practice: Sharing ways of working from the ACCHO sector

These are some of the findings in a report from the work of the Centre of Research Excellence in Aboriginal Chronic Disease Knowledge Translation and Exchange (CREATE), a collaborative enterprise between NACCHO, Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit, at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and the University of Adelaide’s School of Public Health.

To view the full article by Croakey click here.

More required so well placed to emerge from COVID-19

Yesterday the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and members of the Aboriginal Executive Council (AEC), a group made up of 11 Aboriginal CEOs from peak Aboriginal organisations across Victoria, provided evidence to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said the low incidence of COVID-19 cases in Victorian Aboriginal Communities was testament to Aboriginal community control and what can be achieved when working meaningfully together. In order for Aboriginal Communities to be well placed to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, however, more needs to be done now to ensure the sector is better placed to help Aboriginal communities affected by disproportionate rates of mental health and social emotional wellbeing issues, as well as justice and correctional issues.

To read the VACCHO media release click here.

Image sources: National Geographic for Kids and Belyuen youth NT, ABC News.

Additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions

The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a media release Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in areas such as Victoria where more stringent measures have been necessary to stop the spread to the virus.

To view the full media release click here.

oil paingint of Aboriginal man with head in hand sitting on rock in outback

Image source: Camilla Perkins for Mosaic.

QLD – Cairns

FT Member Support Regional Manager – Northern Region (Identified)

QAIHC is a non-partisan peak organisation representing all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations across Queensland at both state and national Level. QAIHC members deliver comprehensive and culturally appropriate, world class primary health care services to their communities.

QAIHC is seeking an experienced, passionate and high-level manager to support its members in the Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Sector.

To view the job description click here.

Broome – WA

Regional Sexual Health Facilitator – Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service

KAMS now has an opportunity for Regional Sexual Health Facilitator to join their friendly, multidisciplinary team in Broome WA, on a full-time fixed term contract basis till 30 June 2021.

In this role, will be responsible for providing support for the coordination, development, implementation and review of practice in the area of Sexual Health in the Kimberley. In particular, this position provides advice and facilitation for an increase by clinicians in provision of opportunistic and targeted screening and appropriate management and follow up of people with sexually transmitted infections.

To view the job description click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Additional $33 Million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care

Additional $33 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health

The Hon. Ken Wyatt MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians

The Hon. Warren Entsch MP
Federal Member for Leichhardt

The Morrison Government will provide an additional $33 million to strengthen primary health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The funding, to be provided over three years, will help to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access culturally appropriate primary health care, when and where they need it.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and other eligible providers will be able to apply for grants, to improve health outcomes in the communities who need it most.

As well as delivering better, more effective health care, the grants will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to better manage their own health.

Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the Morrison Government is providing this funding to ensure a further step towards closing the gap on health, especially by reducing preventable disease and hospitalisation.

Key stakeholders, including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Australian Medical Association, were closely involved in developing the revised funding model.

To read the full media release click here.

Significant drop in incarceration rates possible

Incarceration rates can be reduced significantly and quickly if backed by government, and this can be achieved without compromising community health.

Higher targets to reduce the over-representation of First Nations People in Australia’s criminal justice system could be achieved more quickly and safely based on new data, the New South Wales Bar Association said today.

To read the media release click here.

Johnathan Thurston launches Cairns youth program

The JTConnect program, sponsored by the Deadly Choices Indigenous health campain, is being launched by the Johnathan Thurston Academy today. The program is aimed at improving young people’s confidence, courage and self-belief and inspiring Australia’s next generation to pursue the employment and career options which spark their interest. The program will be offered free to schools and open to students aged 15 years and over.

To read more about the JTConnect program click here.

Photo of Johnathan Thurston & JTConnect resource materials.

Image source: Johnathan Thurston Academy website.


NSW – Newcastle

FT Project Manager x 1

The University of Newcastle has a vacancy for a Project Manager to guide the development of a campaign to increase smoking cessation rates among expectant Indigenous mothers.

For further information about this position click here.

Photo Pregnant Aboriginal Woman smoking, University of Newcastle Logo & University of Newcastle exterior

Image sources: Medical Xpress, Lyons Architecture.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism #BlackLivesMatter News Alerts : Part 1. Three in four people hold negative view of Indigenous Australians Part 2. How does racism impact on our mental wellbeing?

“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

In 2016, Will Smith made this statement on a US talk show. After the death of African-American George Floyd in the United States last week, the clip, and the sentiment behind it, has been circulating widely.

George’s death sparked global protests over racism and police brutality — and Will’s words have resonated with many Aboriginal Australians across the country. 

University of Western Australia professor, psychologist and proud Bardi woman, Pat Dudgeon, agrees.

“There are very few Aboriginal people who wouldn’t have suffered racism,” she says.

It’s often discussed as a social issue, but a growing body of evidence suggests it’s detrimental to the mental health of Aboriginal people.

Read full ABC article HERE or PART 2 Below

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO in the past 8 years 

Most Australians tested for unconscious bias hold a negative view of Indigenous Australians which can lead to widespread racism, new analysis from The Australian National University (ANU) shows.

People’s bias is regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, religion, education level, geography or political leanings, according to the findings.

The ANU researchers say 75 per cent of Australians tested using the Implicit Association Test by a joint initiative of universities including Harvard, Yale and the University of Sydney hold a negative implicit or unconscious bias against Indigenous Australians.

Their findings are published in the Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues.

The researchers analysed the “implicit bias” of over 11,000 Australian participants over a 10-year period, and how this can lead to racist attitudes or behaviour.

“The results are shocking, but not surprising,” said Australian report author

Mr Siddharth Shirodkar, a PhD researcher based in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

“These results show there may be an implicit negative bias against Indigenous Australians across the board, which is likely the cause of the racism that many First Australians experience.

“It is the first data of its kind for Australia and this evidence shows implicit or unconscious bias toward our first Australians is not imagined.

“This study presents stark evidence of the solid invisible barrier that Indigenous people face in society.

“But the data is actually not about Indigenous Australians, it’s about the rest of us.”

The results show it is likely that many people who hold these views have no awareness of their prejudice.

“As it is often unconscious, implicit bias can seep seamlessly into the everyday decisions at all levels of society,” said Mr Shirodkar.

“If you implicitly see Indigenous people in a negative light then that is going to affect all of your interactions and dealings with Indigenous people. We can only imagine the impact of that collective negativity on outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

The test measured how quickly participants paired positive and negative words with historical images of Indigenous and Caucasian Australians.

Regardless of their occupations or levels of education, on average people displayed a negative bias against Indigenous faces. The same was found for people from all religions, as well as people who do not identify as being part of any religion.

Almost all ethnicities on average displayed bias against Indigenous Australians but people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander were statistically unbiased toward either group.

“It suggests Indigenous Australians are likely to be in the best position to make unbiased decisions about other Indigenous people,” said Mr Shirodkar.

Australian male participants showed a higher negative bias than females and people with all levels of education were guilty of bias.

Western Australian and Queensland participants recorded the highest average scores for bias. Participants from the Northern Territory and the ACT recorded the lowest average levels of bias in the country.

As the test is online and free for anyone to undertake, researchers say it is more likely to draw in people who want to prove their lack of bias.

“The results may therefore under-report the extent of implicit bias in Australia,” Mr Shirodkar said.

Anyone can take the Australian Implicit Association test from the follow link

Part 2 How does racism impact on mental wellbeing?

What form can racism take?

Yin Paradies is a professor and chair in race relations at Melbourne’s Deakin University.

He defines racism as the unfair and avoidable disparities in power, resources, capacities, or opportunities centred on ethnic, racial, religious or cultural differences.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says that “racism is more than just words, beliefs and actions. It includes all the barriers that prevent people from enjoying dignity and equality because of their race”.

“It’s a form of exclusion and it impacts on people in that way and the stress of it affects mental health directly,” Professor Paradies says.

“If you can’t get a job, or if you can’t get work, or you’re not getting as much out of your education because of discrimination … [these] really have an impact on your health and wellbeing.”

The disadvantage accrues across all spheres of life over time.

The psychological impact

Professor Paradies’ work looks closely at the impact of racism on health.

His findings show that if you experience racial discrimination you’re:

Long-term impacts of trauma

“If they had iPhones in 1788, there’d be riots here too,” says Rulla Kelly-Mansell, a proud Tulampunga Pakana man and a mental health advocate.

For Rulla, the events unfolding in the US have brought to the surface some of the issues Aboriginal people face on a daily basis.

Rulla Kelly-Mansell standing in front of a wall painted like the aboriginal flag
Tulampunga Pakana man Rulla Kelly-Mansell didn’t fully understand intergenerational trauma until he was older.(Supplied)

He says a lot of the problems Aboriginal people face day to day aren’t things you can see.

Aboriginal people are still dealing with the trauma of past generations and the side effects of those traumas.

This can include poor health, high rates of mental illness and family breakdowns. He says this puts many Aboriginal people at a disadvantage.

“As a young man that manifested in anger.”

Research suggests those who experience trauma are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours, develop lifestyle diseases and enter and remain in the criminal justice system.

Suicide rates for Indigenous Australians aged 15-34 are more than double the general population, despite being less than 3.3 per cent of the population.

The most recent figures show almost one in three Indigenous adults report high levels of psychological distress.

Marlene Longbottom, a Yuin woman and an Aboriginal postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Wollongong, expresses what this time might mean for Indigenous Australians, moving forward with mental health.

“The current time is an opportunity for us to say, ‘Seeking help is a good thing’,” Dr Longbottom says.

“We need to destigmatise [and say] going to a counsellor or getting support is OK, and the healthy thing to do.

“It’s important that our communities know there are people who will listen.”

Where can Indigenous Australians turn to for support?

Click here to see Beyond Blue’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services by state.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Aboriginal #MentalHealth #CoronaVirus News and Resources Alert No 67 : May 21 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders call for Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention helpline

” Responding  to the National Cabinet announcement of $48.1m to support a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan including an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing pandemic response plan to be developed and implemented through Indigenous leadership.

Indigenous leaders look forward to positive changes.

Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders specifically have called for an Indigenous phone help line, operated under Indigenous leadership and with Indigenous counsellors and mental health practitioners available 24/7.

The time to close the Indigenous helpline gap is now. Indigenous people have long been challenged by mental health difficulties at higher rates than the general population. And the current COVID – 19 pandemic has only identified increasing needs in our Indigenous communities.”

Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) Press Release

Read over 260 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years HERE

Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) Chair Ms Tania Dalton said:

Many people think an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) phone helpline already exists, but in fact it’s a major gap in the mental health space.

AIPA have identified and long called for such a helpline and want this gap to close, as there has never been a more acute need than now.

Even though social isolation is easing, tens of thousands Indigenous people including Elders and those who are vulnerable to the virus due to chronic disease are still having to live with social distancing and – with the threat of second and third waves – the prospect of returning to isolation.

For them, anxiety, loneliness, cumulative trauma, and depression have never been a greater challenge. To be able to access culturally safe Indigenous mental health support  by calling  a helpline and speaking to an Indigenous person has never been more important.

In 2014, AIPA began working on helpline proposals that were released in 2016 as ‘Call a Cuz’.

AIPA call on Australian Governments to reconsider the proposal, or one like it, and work with AIPA and other Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders to develop an Indigenous helpline as a matter of urgency.

Australian governments need  to work with AIPA, Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and other Indigenous stakeholders,  in the wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention space to develop a helpline as soon as possible.

This may require a workforce training plan and other elements, and collectively we are more than capable of rising to these challenges with adequate funding.

UWA Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) National Director, Professor Pat Dudgeon commented:

Listen to interview with Pat Dudgeon on CAAMA Radio

In these times of Coronavirus isolation and lockdown measures our community members in remote, rural and urban settings are very vulnerable and have limited access to professional support yet have elevated levels of anxiety, depression and cumulative trauma. Mental health experts are predicting that suicide rates will raise by 50%.

Like AIPA, CBPATSISP have long advocated for an indigenous phone help line as part of a wider response to Indigenous suicide.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, we were working productively with Lifeline to that end, and produced a report

“Wellbeing and Healing Through Connection and Culture” that Identified the need for a dedicated Indigenous tele-counselling help line /service to support our people when they require culturally safe mental and emotional wellbeing support.

NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #CoronaVirus News Alert No 29 : April 3 #KeepOurMobSafe : @GayaaDhuwi (Proud Spirit) 20 Tips for staying healthy and strong during the #coronavirus outbreak

” I thank the Prime Minister for acknowledging the particular pandemic related wellbeing and mental health support needs of our peoples today, and for backing Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia to help meet those needs.

The challenges ahead for Indigenous Australians are great. Poverty, racism and trauma already contribute to mental health issues among us, and sustained periods of isolation, and potential loss of employment, sickness and grief ahead will only add to that burden “

Chair Professor Helen Milroy

” The new body will start immediately to produce a series of ‘tip sheets’ specifically aimed at our households, families and communities.

 Some will address the concerns all Australians have at this time, but others – cultural concerns and the fear of experiencing of discrimination when seeking treatment, for example, require a uniquely Indigenous lens

We hope to eventually translate these into Indigenous languages and otherwise prepare resources for a wide range of Indigenous audiences: from those in remote communities to urban dwellers.

Patron Professor Tom Calma AO 


See how NACCHO protects our mob Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 29 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

20 Tips for staying healthy and strong during the coronavirus outbreak

For further resources and reliable information, including how to get mental health support, see the longer version of this tip sheet at

Or Download long version HERE


We are all feeling worried and stressed about the coronavirus.

Our lives are going to change in many ways, and we have to prepare ourselves now.

To stay mentally strong, here are some tips:

1. Be informed the right way – We need to know what the health experts are saying and follow their advice. Knowing what to do is important – not just to stay physically healthy, but to help bring peace of mind. However, do limit how much time you spend on news for your own

2. Be practical and prepared as things change – It’s good to think ahead more than usual at this time. There’s no need to hoard things, but have some back-up food, supplies and medication in storage. Keep a ‘things to do’ calendar and a list of important phone numbers or

3. It’s OK to be stressed and worried about the virus. What’s not so good is to bottle it up. Talk about your fears and worries with family and friends and get it off your

4. Have hope – This won’t last forever – At some time, the virus will come under control and life will return to something like normal. It’s important to remember this and have hope, even as we prepare to cope with what is ahead.

5. Our culture keeps us strong – We have faced many battles before and survived. Think about our ancestors’ strengths and where we have come from. Focus on what makes you strong for the journey ahead. Remember, our ancestors are always with

6.Take time away from the news and social media – It’s important to stay informed, but if the news or TV is stressing you out turn it off for a while. And make sure what you’re reading and watching is reliable, so you don’t waste time worrying about things that aren’t

7. Keep in touch with friends and family – When you are outside, you need to keep two big steps away from other people to stop the virus spreading, and you shouldn’t visit other people. But you can still yarn on the phone or by social media. Keep in touch that way – don’t visit!

8.Get some fresh air and exercise If permitted, go for a walk but remember to keep at least two big steps from anyone outside. If you’ve got a garden or balcony – use it. Exercise as much as you can without going out – it will help with

9.Eat well – Think about what you’re eating and try and eat well – plenty of fruit and vegetables, can make a big difference to how you feel. Some foods also help to boost your immune system so try some new foods or

10. Be creative or learn something newGet into playing music, singing, storytelling, dancing and creativity to reduce your stress and raise your spirits. Being creative takes our mind away from our worries and give us joy in difficult times. This is important for children

11. Chill out- You might find yoga, meditation and mindfulness helpful, and there’s also dadirri – the deep, spiritual reflection that our mob have been doing for thousands of years. Some people find it easier to do something active first and then

12. Keep the kids happy Check in with your kids to see if they’re OK, especially if they are behaving differently. Give them some space to explore and be creative, but also spend good time together to and give them

13. Keep Elders happy – It’s important we protect our Elders and make sure they don’t get the virus. It’s tough, but for most of us that means staying away, and keeping the kids away, until the virus is under control and speaking on the phone or by

14. Keep yourself happyOur people are good at looking after everyone else but not so good at looking after ourselves. Do things that make you feel good and build your strength. If you are strong and happy, this will help others to do the same, especially

15.Be kind to others – Everyone will be stressed at a time like this. We’re all sharing the worry and dealing with the virus in our own way. It’s important to put yourself in the place of others at this time, to keep as calm as we can, and be as kind as we

16.Find and give space and respectWherever you can, make some part of where you live your own space –a small corner, a chair, or a room. Add a plant, a cushion, whatever makes you calm and happier. Create your own space and respect other people’s need for space as

17. Create a Stay Strong Plan – Think about all the things that keep you and your family strong and what you might need to help. Learn some new ways to talk about what is going on with the family. Make sure you check in with everyone and see how they are

18. Don’t let money worries get on top of you – You may have new or additional money worries until the virus is under control. Its ok to get some support, many people will be in the same

19. Cut back on smoking – It’s important to keep your lungs strong and healthy because the lungs are particularly vulnerable to virus infection. Despite the added stress, aim to cut back or quit if you can. It is also important to not smoke inside or around kids and family to keep them and their lungs

20.Think before you drinkIn times of stress, it might feel normal to reach for a drink. But think first – How might my drinking affect others in the house? Is drinking becoming the main way I am coping with the coronavirus? Talk to your doctor or health service if this is the

COVID-19 Emergency Contact Numbers by State

If you feel unwell, have a fever or sore throat. PLEASE do not go to the ACCHO medical centre/family clinic or the hospital, instead contact the following for instructions:

  • ACT Health: 02 6205 2155
  • NSW Health: 1300 066 055
  • SA Health: 1300 232 272
  • TAS Health: 1800 671 738
  • QLD Health: 13 432 584
  • VIC Health: 1300 651 160
  • WA Health: 08 922 8588
  • NT Helpline: 1800 008 002
  • National helpline: 1800 020 080

© Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Sprit) Australia Ltd. Please use with acknowledgement.

Artwork © Roma Winmar.

NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #CoronaVirus News Alert No 19 #KeepOurMobSafe : Intro @JuliaGillard 10 Help/ supports from @beyondblue Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak plus managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

1.Try to maintain perspective

2.Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

3.Access good quality information

4.Try to maintain a practical and calm approach

5.Try not to make assumptions

6.Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

7.Children and young people

8.Support for those experiencing financial hardship

9.Health care workers

10.Seek support

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 18 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

“These are uncertain times. There are many unknowns.

As humans, we’re hardwired to crave stability. If you’re feeling worried and unsettled that is perfectly understandable.

I felt that myself during my recent period of self-isolation in London. At an event for young people called WE Day, I spent quite a bit of time with Sophie Trudeau, the First Lady of Canada.

When she became unwell and tested positive for COVID-19, I was concerned about potentially becoming sick a long way from home.

What I found reassuring was that the public health advice that was so clear.  The recommendation to me was to self-isolate for 14 days from the time of contact.

Fortunately, I stayed fit and well in that period and all my London friends and colleagues, as well as visiting Aussie mates, made sure I had food and stayed connected with video conferences, calls and silly messages.

On my return to Australia I will self-isolate for another 14 days, and I know family and friends will help me through.

For me, this experience has reinforced how a significant part of the solution to this pandemic rests with us.

The daily decisions we make now are critical and every single one of us has a part to play.

Our individual acts can have a powerful collective impact, helping protect those most at risk in our community.

Simple things really matter – good hand hygiene, avoiding mass gatherings, keeping a 1.5 metre distance between ourselves and others, and staying home if we’re unwell or if we’ve been in contact with someone who is.

Beyond Blue recognises and understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following wellbeing advice.”

Julia Gillard Chair BeyondBlue : Read full Press Release Here

1.Try to maintain perspective

While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

2.Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.

3.Access good quality information

It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.

4.Try to maintain a practical and calm approach

Widespread panic can complicate efforts to manage the outbreak effectively. Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around observing good hygiene habits.

The Australian Psychological Society has advice about maintaining positive mental health during the outbreak.

5.Try not to make assumptions

To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.

6.Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

There are a number of ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
  • Connect with others via the Beyond Blue forums thread: Coping during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods.
  • Try to maintain physical activity.
  • Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits.
  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.

7.Children and young people

Families and caregivers of children and young people should discuss news of the virus with those in their care in an open and honest way. Try to relate the facts without causing alarm, and in a way that is appropriate for their age and temperament. It is important to listen to any questions they may have, to let them know that they are safe and that it’s normal to feel concerned.

If the media or the news is getting too much for them, encourage them to limit their exposure. This video has some useful tips for talking to young people about scary stuff in the news.

Beyond Blue’s Be You initiative has also developed the following resources to help educators support children and young people’s mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

8.Support for those experiencing financial hardship

As the ongoing spread of the coronavirus continues to affect the global economy, many people in Australia are losing jobs, livelihoods and financial stability. For information and services provided by the Australian government, please visit Services Australia.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, National Debt Helpline offers free financial counselling.

9.Health care workers

Health care workers may feel extra stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a normal response in these unprecedented circumstances. Such feelings are not a sign of weakness and it’s important to acknowledge this. There are practical ways to manage your mental health during this time, including:

  • getting enough rest during work hours and between shifts
  • eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity
  • keeping in contact with colleagues, family and friends by phone or online
  • being aware of where you can access mental health support at work
  • if you’re a manager, trying to create mentally healthy work structures.

It’s important the general public recognises the pressure that health systems and workers themselves are under and takes steps to support them where possible. Following government advice about ways individuals can help slow the spread of the virus will support the health care workers who are saving lives and keeping people safe.

10.Seek support

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news of the outbreak. We encourage people who have experienced mental health issues in the past to:

  • activate your support network
  • acknowledge feelings of distress
  • seek professional support early if you’re having difficulties.

For those already managing mental health issues, continue with your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms.

Social contact and maintaining routines can be supportive for our mental health and wellbeing. In circumstances where this is not possible, staying connected with friends and family online or by phone may assist. Beyond Blue also has a dedicated page on its forums about coping during the coronavirus outbreak.

Acknowledge feelings of distress and seek further professional support if required.

Beyond Blue has fact sheets about anxiety and offers other practical advice and resources at

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.

NACCHO Aboriginal Communities Health and #CoronaVirus News Alert 24 March No 15 :10 practical psychological skills to help you and your loved ones cope with anxiety and worry

” Our mob are susceptible to many different infectious diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19).

Worrying about diseases is a normal reaction.

But, excessive worrying about infectious diseases can affect both our physical and our mental health.

This page describes practical psychological skills to help you and your loved ones cope with anxiety and worry about infectious diseases.”

From Health Direct Head to Health Corona Virus support 

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 15 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1. Get informed with the right information

We are ‘hard-wired’ to react to possible threats to ourselves, our families and our communities. These reactions can keep us safe from possible threats. But at times, our reactions may also be excessive and unhelpful, and may cause significant stress and worry.

Relying on news from mainstream media or social media, which may sensationalise or exaggerate issues, can further increase our stress and anxiety.

One way to manage our reactions is to access the ‘right information’, that is, information we can trust. Consider only accessing trusted sources of information (e.g., ABC Radio, Australian Government Department of Health website, World Health Organisation, NACCHO  website, etc).

2. Understand history

Events like infectious diseases often follow a predictable course. In the past 50 years there have been multiple national and international episodes of concern around conditions such as tuberculosis, SARS, Ebola, HIV, hepatitis, measles, to name a few.

Initially, there is often skepticism, followed by attention, followed by panic, followed by reality, followed by a return to normality. Stock markets and supermarket shelves are good indicators of where we are in the course. Reminding yourself of these patterns can help you to understand the course and plan for the future.

3. Get organised

A good antidote to stress and worry is to get active and organised. If you are worried about something, then do something. Make plans and write your list of what you need to buy, organise, or set-up, and get on with doing it. Tick off each item and turn your ‘To Do’ list into a ‘Ta-Da’ list.

Whenever you recognise you are getting stressed, ask yourself, ‘What do I need to do to help manage this situation?’ Remember that family or friends are also likely to be stressed and might need help getting organised. Talk with them about your plans, and if possible, help them to get organised.

4. Balance your thoughts

When we get stressed about our health or risks of infection our thoughts can become dark, brooding, and pessimistic. Thoughts like, “How will I cope if I get sick?”, “I can’t deal with this”, are often triggered by stress, but they don’t help us. Negative and dark brooding thoughts will stop you doing things that can help. Remember, our thoughts are not always true or helpful.

Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself what a friend would say in the same situation, or ask yourself what evidence do you have that you ‘won’t cope or can’t cope’? Whenever you recognise a negative thought balance it with a realistic thought.

5. Shut down the noise

Stress is infectious, and often unhelpful. People tend to talk about things they are worried about; this create lots of ‘noise’, which can create even more stress. Give yourself permission to switch off ‘noise’ such as social media, news, or even radio for most of each day. Also give yourself permission to excuse yourself from people who are creating stress.

Keep checking in to reliable news sources once or twice a day, but otherwise, turn down the ‘noise’. Instead, replace it with things that can help you, including doing things you enjoy, listening to music, entertainment, games, or even meditation.

6. Remember who you are

Most people are good, kind, and sensible. They care for others and the environment and want to make the world a better place. These reflect important ‘values’. Stressful times can make it challenging to act in the way that is aligned with our values. But, even when feeling stressed, remember who you are, and what you believe in.

Remember to be gentle, kind, and respectful to yourself and to others; other people are probably as stressed and worried as you are. By reaching out and supporting others you will not only be helping them, but also doing something that will help you to feel good about yourself.

7. Keep healthy routines

We all have routines in our daily lives. For example, we tend to get up at a certain time, brush our teeth in a certain way, get ready for the day’s activities, and follow many other routines until we go to sleep at night. Major events naturally create changes in routines, particularly if we can’t do some of our usual activities.

We know that our emotional health is strongly affected by regular routines; these routines not only help to get us organised, but give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Some of our routines involve other people, who also benefit from them, for example, family mealtimes or get-togethers with friends.

Spend some time thinking about the routines that are important to you and those around you, and find clever and safe ways to keep up these routines or create new ones.

8. Stay engaged

Another key strategy for keeping good mental wellbeing is to stay connected and engaged with people and activities that are meaningful. Reflect on what these are for you and schedule time in your routine to keep doing them.

You might have to modify how you stay connected, for example, using Skype or Facetime instead of face-to-face visits. Examples of how to stay engaged include speaking to family and loved ones, using online forums and chat groups, or calling people. Remember that people really appreciate engaging with others, even if this hasn’t been planned.

9. Do the things that you enjoy and that are good for you

When we are stressed we tend to avoid doing things that we normally do, including things which are good for our mental health. We all have activities and hobbies which we enjoy and which give us pleasure. Even if we can’t do those things in exactly the same way due to quarantine or isolation, it is essential that we make time and effort to do things that we find valuable and meaningful and fun.

If possible, try and do these with others; many activities are more fun to do with company. Making a plan to do fun things regularly will give you something to look forward to, which is another key strategy for staying mentally healthy.

10. Keep looking forward

Remember the famous saying, ‘this too shall pass’. It may not feel like it, but things will return to normal. In the meantime, it is important to have confidence that things will improve, that people will recover, and things will get back to normal. In addition to maintaining your long-term goals, also think about things that you will do each day and week, which you can and will enjoy. Again, try and bring others into your plans; they might also benefit from thinking about the future.

This information has been produced in collaboration with the MindSpot Clinic whose assistance is acknowledged and appreciated.

Next steps

You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful.

Some suggestions are below.

NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health News : Download @MenziesResearch and @orygen_aus A practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 ” Menzies Research and Orygen Australia have developed & just published a practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.

Little is known about how best to practically meet the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) needs of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those with severe and complex mental health needs.

Yet, there is an urgent need for health programs and services to be more responsive to the mental health needs of this population.

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work. “

Download the Report HERE ( See PDF for all research references )


Read over 250 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 Years

It is well documented that there are:

  • high rates of psychological distress, mental health conditions, and suicide noted among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people when compared to non-Aboriginal young people;
  • a lack of evidence-based and culturally informed resources to educate and assist health professionals to work with this population; and
  • notable gaps between knowledge and practice, which limits opportunities to improve the SEWB of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This promising practice guide draws on an emerging, yet disparate, evidence-base about promising practices aimed at improving the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. It aims to support service providers, commissioners, and policy-makers to adopt strengths-based, equitable and culturally responsive approaches that better meet the SEWB needs of this high-risk population.


The Australian Government appointed Orygen to provide Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) with expert leadership and support in commissioning youth mental health initiatives.

Orygen has subsequently commissioned Menzies School of Health Research to identify and document promising practice service approaches in improving SEWB among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with severe and complex mental health needs. This promising practice guide is an output of that work.

What do we know about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people?

It is recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies provided the optimal condition for their community members’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing before European settlement.

However, the Australian Psychological Society has acknowledged that these optimal conditions have been continuously eroded through colonisation in parallel with an increase in mental health concerns.2

There is clear evidence about the disproportionate burden of SEWB and mental health concerns experienced among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The key contributors to the disease burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-24 years are:1 suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13 per cent), anxiety disorder (eight per cent) and alcohol use disorders (seven per cent).3

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work.4

The stressors have a cumulative impact as these children transition into adolescence and early adulthood. Another study has shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are at higher risk of emotional and behavioural difficulties.5

This is linked to major life stress events such as family dysfunction; being in the care of a sole parent or other carers; having lived in a lot of different homes; being subjected to racism; physical ill-health of young people and/or carers; carer access to mental health services; and substance use disorders. These factors are all closely intertwined.

Relevant national frameworks and action plans

The Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 (2015) was developed by the Australian Government Department of Health in close consultation with the National Health Leadership Forum. It has a strong emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to addressing the key priorities identified throughout the plan.

The overarching vision is to ensure that the strategies and actions of the plan respond to the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across their life course. This includes a focus on young people.6

The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 provides more specific direction by highlighting the importance of preventive actions that focus on children and young people.7 This includes:

  • strengthening the foundation;
  • promoting wellness;
  • building capacity and resilience in people and groups at risk;
  • provide care for people who are mildly or moderately ill; and
  • care for people living with severe mental illness.

In addition, the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020-2030 identifies building health equity, including principles of proportionate universalism, as a key action area and identifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people as a priority population.8

Social and emotional wellbeing frameworks relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people


Over the past decades, multiple frameworks have been developed to support the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.4-8 These have identified some common elements, domains, principles, action areas and methods.7, 9-12

One of the most comprehensive frameworks is the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023, which has a foundation of development over many years.13

It has nine guiding principles:

  1. Health as a holistic concept: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land is central to wellbeing. Crucially, it must be understood that while the harmony of these interrelations is disrupted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ill-health will persist.
  2. The right to self-determination: Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and considered a fundamental human right.
  3. The need for cultural understanding: Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health problems generally and mental health concerns more specifically. This necessitates a culturally safe and responsive approach through health program and service delivery.
  4. The impact of history in trauma and loss: It must be recognised that the experiences of trauma and loss, a direct result of colonialism, are an outcome of the disruption to cultural wellbeing. Trauma and loss of this magnitude continue to have intergenerational impacts.
  5. Recognition of human rights: The human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be recognised and respected. Failure to respect these human rights constitutes continuous disruption to mental health (in contrast to mental illness/ill health). Human rights specifically relevant to mental illness must be addressed.
  6. The impact of racism and stigma: Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.
  7. Recognition of the centrality of kinship: The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship must be recognised as well as the broader concepts of family and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.
  8. Recognition of cultural diversity: There is no single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture or group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinship systems and tribes. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in a range of urban, rural or remote settings where expressions of culture and identity may differ.
  9. Recognition of Aboriginal strengths: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment.13

While the principles outlined above are not specific to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they are considered to be appropriate within the context of adopting a holistic life-course approach.

What’s happening in practice?

This promising practice guide attempts to collate disparate strands of evidence that relate to enhancing youth mental health; improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SEWB; and strategies for addressing severe and complex mental health needs.

It has been well documented that there are significant limitations in the evaluation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs and services across Australia.22-24 The Australian Governments’ Productivity Commission Inquiry into

Mental Health and the Lowitja Institute are, at the time of producing this document, looking at ways to strengthen work in this space.24, 25

In the absence of high-quality evaluation reports, the term ‘promising practice’ is used throughout this guide.

This is consistent with the terminology used by the Australian Psychological Society through its project about SEWB and mental health services in Australia (

It adopts a strengths-based approach26 which acknowledges and celebrates efforts made to advance work in this space in the absence of strong practice-based evidence.

This is achieved through the presentation of five active case studies.

These reflect organizational, systems and practice focused service model examples. The principles included in the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 have been mapped against each case study to illustrate how these privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being.

Each case study includes generic background information to provide important contextual information; key messages or lessons learned, and reflections from staff involved in the project.

They have been developed in consultation with both the commissioning PHN and the service/organisation funded to develop and/or deliver the framework, program and service. Where possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders were consulted during the development of the case studies.

Need help ?

Contact your nearest ACCHO or

If the situation is an emergency please call 000
If you wish to speak to someone immediately who can help call:

Kids Help Line

1800 55 1800

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #AODConnect Resources Alert : Download an app to improve access to #alcohol and other #drugs AOD service information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

The AODconnect app has been developed by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre to help alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers, community members and health professionals working in the AOD sector to locate culturally appropriate services.

The app aims to support efforts to reduce harmful substance use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read over 200 Aboriginal Health Alcohol and other Drugs articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are increasingly using online platforms to share and access information about different health topics.

The ownership and use of mobile phones in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is widespread and increasing, making apps a viable way to provide people living in these regions with access to health information.

AODconnect provides an Australia-wide directory of over 270 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AOD treatment services.

It delivers a portable way to easily access information about service providers such as contact details and program descriptions, helping to facilitate initial contact and referral.


Once the app has been downloaded, users can search for AOD services even when their internet connection is unstable or not available.

This is especially useful in rural and remote areas of Australia where the Internet coverage is not always extensive or reliable.

The app enables users to search for services by state, territory, region and postcode via either an interactive map of Australia or by alphabetical listing.

Services can be filtered by the type of treatment they provide: counselling and referral, harm reduction and support groups, outreach, mobile patrols and sobering up shelters, residential rehab, withdrawal management and young people.

The services listed on the app are also available through the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre website.

The app is free to download on both iOS and Android devices.

If you would like to have your service added to the app or would like more information about the AODconnect app, please contact the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre email: or Ph: (08) 9370 6336.

Alcohol and other drugs GP education program

NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health News : Debating Aboriginal identity: the untold health impacts

” What will this do to individuals and the collective? What will this do to our health and wellbeing?

To grasp its impact, the definition of Aboriginal health needs to be understood. Aboriginal health encompasses “not just the physical wellbeing of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole Community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential as a human being, thereby bringing about the total wellbeing of their Community”.

This debate is hurting our communities; therefore, we as peoples are not healthy.

Aboriginal people pitted against Aboriginal people; this is all playing out in public with very little to gain “

Divisive public debates about Aboriginal identity are causing harm, according to Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, public health academic, and contributing editor at Croakey.

Originally published HERE

Image above sourced from HERE

 ” What is vexing is that through all the heat of debate, for all the claims and counterclaims, the only ones having their reputations tarnished, careers damaged and division sowed is within the Indigenous community.

Culture wars or identity politics are fertile ground for debate between commentators of various leanings, often burnishing their reputations, but for those in the line of fire, it can be a brutal arena.

Is that really the place the Indigenous community should be finding itself in at this time?

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was a laudable start to giving Indigenous Australians a voice in shaping their and the nation’s future.

The Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt is spending a year consulting with the Aboriginal community to help give shape to that statement in the form of a Voice to Parliament.

This seminal debate needs to be given the time and space to be fully understood, not buried by squabbling over issues that offer little in the way of common ground or further understanding of what is required to bring about reconciliation to this country. “

The Age Editorial 9 February Ancestry squabble damages Indigenous cause

In light of the recent very public events around author Bruce Pascoe’s Aboriginal identity, leading psychologist and Njamal woman Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman has raised some really important discussions around the impact of questioning mob’s identity and particularly lateral violence, on individuals mental health.

She had a yarn with @nitv_au that we think needs to be shared in order to emphasise how vital it is that we focus on supporting and lifting each other up, rather than tearing each other down or criticising the ways we express our identity:

“On a daily basis, I hear of identity struggles. Particularly from those who don’t know their history and cannot ‘prove’ connection as a direct result of assimilation policies. Robust identity formation is a complex and long term journey for Indigenous people as it is for any marginalised group.

Our best evidence tells us that a strong sense of cultural identity moderates suicide & mental health risk… [but] race-based trauma comes increasingly from lateral or within-group racism with around 95 per cent of Indigenous people experiencing it.

The great irony is that the people pushing for a so-called ‘test’ of Aboriginality are hurting the people they are arguing they are trying to protect.”

We are one mob, one family and we’re all on different journeys. Respect and love is paramoun🖤💛❤️

Additional comment  from Tiddas 4 Tiddas Facebbok post ( added by NACCHO FYI )

Image from the cover of ‘Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice’, which details the importance of connection to culture and a strong identity for health and wellbeing

Aboriginal identity has hit the headlines again. Public debate about who is and is not Aboriginal is often a national pastime for non-Aboriginal people. This time, however, the debate has been reignited by an Aboriginal person.

And it’s raising some significant health concerns that merit discussion and investigation.

As has been widely reported, Aboriginal lawyer Josephine Cashman recently wrote to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton asking him to investigate Bruce Pascoe for fraud, alleging that the author of award-winning Dark Emu falsely claims to be Aboriginal.

Pascoe categorically denies this allegation.

Minister Dutton subsequently referred Pascoe to the Australian Federal Police for investigation, and news reports yesterday cited a letter from the AFP saying no Commonwealth offences had been identified and that they had closed the case.

Cashman also requested that an Aboriginal register be established to ensure that people cannot falsely claim to be Aboriginal.

Excerpt from Josephine Cashman’s letter to Minister Dutton, dated 24 December 2019

Notable Aboriginal people – including Federal Minister Ken Wyatt, Federal MP Linda Burney, senior academics Professor Marcia Langton, Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, Dr Marlene Longbottom (see her tweets on related matters), Associate Professor Chelsea Bond and Amy Thunig – have rejected the register proposal.

Cashman also seems to support the confirmation of Aboriginality through DNA testing, a suggestion recently revived in the lead up to the NSW election by Mark Latham, a One Nation representative in the NSW Legislative Council.

Essentially, Cashman has opened a large can of worms for Aboriginal people. And while some support her calls, I do not.

I am a Yorta Yorta woman and grew up on Awabakal country (West Lake Macquarie, NSW). I have the privilege of being connected to my mob both in Lake Macquarie and nearby Newcastle and on Yorta Yorta country. My lineage is clear and indisputable. I know, however, that not all Aboriginal people have the privilege of such strong connections, due to no fault of their own.

I am disappointed, upset and angry that Cashman has used her privileged position to prosecute a cause publicly and politically. It has the potential to do little good and so much harm. If these issues are to be raised, it is a conversation that should be undertaken privately by Aboriginal people.

Firstly, a DNA test to confirm Aboriginality is absolutely not possible. An Aboriginal reference genome(s) has not been scientifically established, and there is no guarantee that there will be one.

History matters

The call for DNA testing is nothing but a divisive political tool used by the far-right, harking back to a time when the state controlled Aboriginal people during the time of the assimilation policy.

The assimilation policy aimed to destroy Aboriginal culture by integrating us into the broader Australian culture, which at the time was based on English values. This policy was multi-faceted and included the removal of children from their families as well as forcing people to deny their heritage and culture if they were to enjoy white privileges.

When children were removed, their skin colour determined their fate. Fair skinned children who could pass as white were placed with white families, never to know their Aboriginal culture. Remaining children were placed in group homes, trained for menial labour. Again, they were not allowed to maintain their connection to families and culture.

Adults were often forced to choose between their extended families and culture, and improved opportunities. For example, to be exempt from the NSW Aborigines Protection Act, under which the state controlled their lives, they were not allowed to speak in language, practise culture and associate with other Aboriginal people. They did what they felt was right for them and their families at the time.

The long-term impact today is that many of their descendants now have little to no connection to their Aboriginal community.

Credit: : Connecting with the Aboriginal History of Yarra- A Teachers resource Levels 3-10

Additionally, Aboriginal people historically have experienced extreme racism and discrimination. Therefore, in the past, to protect themselves and their families, some people with fairer skin denied their Aboriginality. This has also meant that many of their ancestors have become disconnected from their mob.

All of this is well known in Aboriginal communities.

Cashman, of course, has her supporters, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, including right-wing political commentator Andrew Bolt.

She posted several messages of support from Aboriginal people on her Twitter account, demonstrating that as a collective of Peoples, we have not even come close to addressing the legacy caused by the assimilation policy and racism.

By attacking Pascoe, Cashman is continuing the mission of the assimilation policy against those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

We, as a collective of diverse Peoples, have inherited issues caused by past government policies. These policies have significantly impacted people, due to no fault of their own, by denying them their culture.

Health implications

What will this do to individuals and the collective? What will this do to our health and wellbeing?

To grasp its impact, the definition of Aboriginal health needs to be understood. Aboriginal health encompasses “not just the physical wellbeing of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole Community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential as a human being, thereby bringing about the total wellbeing of their Community”.

This debate is hurting our communities; therefore, we as peoples are not healthy.

Aboriginal people pitted against Aboriginal people; this is all playing out in public with very little to gain.

We know that there is a clear link between past policies and health and wellbeing. We know the links between stress and health.

The Stolen Generations and their families have suffered poorer health than other Aboriginal people.

It’s clear through epigenetics, that what happened to our mothers and grandmothers, affects us even before we are born, impacting health during childhood and beyond. And we know that a strong connection to culture has a positive impact on a person’s health and wellbeing.

I have watched the struggles of friends and colleagues, who know they are Aboriginal but know little about their lineage. They have struggled to understand their place in the world. They often feel a sense of loss, as if part of them is missing.

They worry that if they publicly identify as Aboriginal without having ALL the answers to questions thrown at them that they may be further ostracised.

Cashman has made their fears a reality. Her pursuit of Pascoe could be used as an excuse to go back to the bad old days of Aboriginal identify being controlled by the state.

The outcome for Pascoe is uncertain; however, what is certain is the damage this debate has caused Aboriginal people across the country.

Pascoe is not the only person whose identity Cashman has attacked.

Journalist Jack Latimore wrote an opinion piece on the issues raised by Cashman, “Bruce Pascoe’s identity is no business of the Commonwealth”.

In response, she questioned his Aboriginality in a tweet since deleted.

What we can learn from this sorry episode is that efforts to divide Aboriginal people and to undermine our sense of identity are damaging for people’s health and wellbeing.

• Summer May Finlay (CSCA, TAE, BSocSC and MPHA) is a PhD candidate in Aboriginal national key performance indicators at the University South Australia, works for the University of Wollongong as a lecturer in Public Health, and is a research assistant at the University of Canberra. She is currently the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Vice President for the Public Health Association of Australia and is also the Co-Vice Chair of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Indigenous Working Group.

Follow on Twitter: @SummerMayFinlay