National Reconciliation Week 2024 – Now more than ever 

May 23, 2024 | All News & Media

This year’s National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) theme, “Now more than ever”, is a reminder to us all that, no matter what, we must persevere in our fight for the justice and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the benefit of all Australians.   

As a health promotion charity, we recognise the role we must play in creating a just, equitable and reconciled Australia – and, through the work that we do, in prioritising and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing.  

Over the past 12 months, we have been working to ensure our commitment to reconciliation and the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples forms part of the core of the work that we do as an organisation.  

Elevating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA program  

We first introduced our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program in 2007, in recognition of the significant cultural contexts needed to address the mental health of First Nations people. The program’s flagship course, developed in collaboration with First Nations people, teaches participants how to provide culturally safe and appropriate support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults.  

The program has since expanded to include a focus on developing skills to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 12–18, as well as specialised courses focusing on supporting First Nations people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, non-suicidal self-injury, and harm from gambling.  

Through this program, more than 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander instructors have been trained to deliver courses. Those instructors have gone on to deliver over 6,500 culturally informed and tailored courses, equipping more than 30,000 MHFAiders with the skills, knowledge and confidence to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when it matters most.  

We know that our work here is not yet done and now more than ever we are committed to prioritising and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. To help achieve this, Mental Health First Aid International has elevated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Program into our organisational structure both as part of a strategic priority and an independent portfolio. This will be instrumental in expanding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program and workforce, ensuring it is culturally capable and responsive to the needs of First Nations people.     

Formalising our commitment to reconciliation  

Our work to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people does not stop there. We are currently preparing a final draft of our first Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in consultation with Reconciliation Australia.  

Our draft RAP, championed by CEO Angus Clelland and Board Chair Krystian Seibert, is our organisational commitment to reconciliation and improving the cultural capability, awareness and respect amongst our staff and the broader community. 

We look forward to receiving endorsement from Reconciliation Australia to mark the formal commencement of our organisation’s reconciliation journey and working with our community to acknowledge the rich, diverse and unique cultures and histories of Australia’s First Peoples.  

Representation in our new Instructor Reference Group  

Earlier this year, we developed the inaugural National MHFA Instructor Reference Group to ensure instructor experiences, insights and expertise play a part in guiding the future of our work. In recognition of the need for First Nations voices and perspectives to help inform our work in this space, two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructors were appointed to the group.  

These members include: 

  • Danny Foulkes is a Torres Strait Islander born in the Torres Strait on Waiben Island and has family links to Badu Island, Erub and Mer Island. Currently working as Social and Emotional Wellbeing Educator with Apunipima Cape York, he adopts a collaborative approach and applies strong cultural and relational sensitivities to positively influence and inspire others. Danny has been an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructor since 2022. 
  • Margaret Saunders, a proud and respected descendant of the Wongaibon people of the Bogan River from the Wiradjuri Nation. Through her vast lived experience, she effectively relates with her participants in ways that show cultural integrity, respect and understanding. Margaret has been an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructor since 2017, and holds several course licenses and credentials.

Their active involvement will ensure First Nations voices, and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructors, contribute to the work we do in bringing mental health first aid education to schools, tertiary institutions, workplaces and communities across Australia.

Media contact

Nicole Richardson | media@mhfa.com.au | 0487 656 352

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