As Australia prepares to vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum on 14 October, Mental Health First Aid® Australia recognises that this may be a difficult time for many Australians.
In the leadup to the Voice referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, perspectives and rights have been debated on a national stage. This public discourse has at times been confronting and racist, which can be traumatic and have long-lasting affects for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We know that the negative impacts of the public debate can significantly impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s social and emotional well-being and mental health. A study by the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research at the Australian National University (ANU) earlier this year revealed that First Nations Australians are experiencing extra stress, increased racism and heightened pressure to educate and inform non-Indigenous people about the referendum – all of which are adding to the load that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already carry.
“While our people are resilient and strong, these are tough times that can have an impact on our well-being. We need to look after ourselves and others, and to keep yarning about the things that matter in a way that is respectful,” says Karen Bates, a proud Barkindji woman and manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid program. “This also extends to non-Indigenous Australians who may also be struggling in the lead up to the referendum.”
If you know, work with or care for individuals who may be impacted, it is important to check in on them and ensure they are supported and connected to resources that may help during this time.
Below is a range of resources to support mental health and well-being during this time, as well as culturally informed resources to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during the referendum.
Mental health and crisis support resources
13Yarn | 13 92 76
Counselling and crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Lifeline | 13 11 14
Crisis support and suicide prevention services available via phone, text message or online chat.
State-based Aboriginal community controlled health organisations
Primary health care services initiated and operated by and for local Aboriginal communities.
Brother to Brother | 1800 435 799
Crisis support for Aboriginal men.
MensLine Australia | 1300 789 978
Counselling service offering support to men available via phone, online chat and video calls.
Kids Helpline | 1800 551 800
Counselling for kids, teens and young adults aged between 5 and 25 available via phone and online chat.
Resources to support mental health during the referendum
Gayaa Dhuwi – Voice resources
Support resources from the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, and suicide prevention.
Connection. Strength. Resilience. | Voice Referendum: Social and Emotional Wellbeing Resources
A portal developed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet to support and reduce social and emotional harms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior to and post the Voice referendum.
WellMob – Self-care resources
Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander frontline health and wellbeing workers, with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing.
Mental health and wellbeing in the lead up to the Voice to Parliament Referendum
Evidence-based factsheets summarising findings from the ANU’s National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research.
For more information about the Voice to Parliament referendum on 14 October 2023, visit the Australian Government’s Voice website.
The artwork used in this article has been created by Johanna Parker. She is a Murriwarri woman from Lightning Ridge, NSW. This artwork speaks about “young and old people need[ing] to talk about their problems in our communities. The flow of help is all around”.