NAIDOC Week 2022

July 3rd – 10th marks National NAIDOC Week, and this year’s theme, Get up! Stand up! and Show up! is a rallying cry for all Australians to stand alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as advocates and allies driving positive systemic change. 

There are vast health and life expectancy inequalities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. Over the years, progress has been made towards closing the gap; however, disparities remain. 

Poor mental health accounts for 10% of the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians [1]. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of mental health issues than non-Indigenous Australians. 

  • The rate of Indigenous Australians reporting ‘high or very high’ levels of psychological distress was 2.3 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians [2] 
  • 31% of Indigenous Australian adults reported ‘high or very high’ levels of psychological distress in 2018–19, which increased from 27% in 2004–05 [3] 
  • The rate of hospitalisation for mental health-related conditions increased for Indigenous Australians, by 76% for females and 55% for males between 2004-05 and 2016-2017 [4] 
  • Suicide accounts for 6% of all deaths in Indigenous peoples compared to 2% for non-Indigenous Australians [6]
  • Mental health and substance use disorders were the leading cause of the total burden of disease for Indigenous Australians (19%) and were also responsible for 14% of the gap with non-Indigenous Australians [5]

In the workforce, Indigenous Australians remain vastly under-represented / excluded. According to Australian Indigenous Employment Index National Report 2022, “As of 2018, less than half (49.1 [AP1] %) of working age Indigenous Australians were in some form of employment, compared to 75.9 % for non-Indigenous Australians. Worryingly, that gap only closed by 1.3 % during the decade to 2018” [7]. A long history of trauma, grief, loss and cultural disconnection means mental health, physical and spiritual wellbeing and employment challenges experienced by First Nations people can be complex and interconnected. Therefore, addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires culturally appropriate, and collaborative support and care. 

Cultivating diversity and inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the workplace is a necessity, and workplaces must act now to make a change and create culturally and psychologically safe working environments for First Nations people to thrive. 

So, how can your workplace Get up!, Stand up! And Show up! For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples? 
  • Workplaces can establish a fundamental set of values and principles including respect, diversity, and inclusion to guide practices that support intercultural responsiveness. This can involve implementing guidelines and policies on acceptable behaviour so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are not discriminated against and are provided equal opportunities within the workplace. 
  • Increase accessibility to mental health services. Encourage and promote the use of Employee Assistant Programs for Indigenous counselling services. This can motivate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to reach out for support when experiencing a mental health concern, which can help to improve their mental health outcomes. 
  • Cultural learning and awareness are key in building a positive work environment which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse groups. Cultural learning and awareness allow team members to build better relationships, improve employee morale, and encourages better communication amongst Indigenous colleagues. This can help to educate non-Indigenous Australians on culturally appropriate responses to support their Indigenous colleagues at work. 

The Centre for Corporate Health and Resilia acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional owners, custodians, and elders of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and all the First Nations lands and communities where we work. We recognise the continuing connection that nurtures Country and community. 


References:

[1] https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-mental-health-program 

[2] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-health-and-wellbeing 

[3] https://www.indigenousmhspc.gov.au/topics/mental-health 

[4] https://www.indigenoushpf.gov.au/measures/3-10-access-mental-health-services 

[5] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/illness-death-indigenous-australians/summary 

[6] https://lifeinmind.org.au/about-suicide/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-communities/what-we-know-about-suicide-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples 

[7] https://cdn.minderoo.org/content/uploads/2022/05/22105150/Woort-Koorliny-Australian-Indigenous-Employment-Index-2022.pdf