ACPA Statement on Racism

29th June 2020

The recent killing of George Floyd in the USA has ignited global outrage regarding systemic and institutionalised racism in that country and many others. Indeed, Australia has its own history of racism, encompassing systematic and systemic racially-based abuse; massacre and social engineering of its First Nations People; oppressive government policies; an appalling record of Black Deaths in Custody; and a history of “Blackbirding,” whereby between 55,000 and 62,500 Pacific Islanders were transported to Australia in the 19th century to work the cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

This history has had a devastating impact that continues to this day, causing ongoing disadvantage and inequality. Our First Nations People continue to be systemically disadvantaged, and continue to suffer individual, community and systemic racism. This racially-based discrimination and disadvantage results in disproportionate levels of psychological distress, mental illness, social isolation, poverty, unemployment and child mortality, as well as reduced life expectancy and education levels. Indigenous young people are more likely to be incarcerated than finish high school, and those aged 15-24 die by suicide at four times the non-Indigenous frequency. Moreover, this racially-based discrimination and disadvantage has resulted in fragmentation of communities and loss of cultural practices and language, and significant trans-generational trauma.

ACPA condemns racism, and acknowledges and condemns the historical and continuing racism and racially-based disadvantage that our First Nations People experience. ACPA stands in solidarity with them, and acknowledges the ongoing trauma of their families and communities.

Our profession’s code of ethics rests on three core principles: respect, propriety and integrity. We acknowledge that psychology has been part of the discrimination against Indigenous people. In the practice of clinical psychology and in the other aspects of our day-to-day work, we can directly have a positive impact on this issue by educating ourselves about First Nations perspectives on mental health and wellbeing, and working towards our own practice being respectful and sensitive to Indigenous cultures and history, which can be termed ‘decolonising’ our practice. We can ensure cultural humility, respect, sensitivity, informedness and diversity are central in our work with our clients and colleagues.

There are a number of other avenues through which members can directly have an impact on bringing about change, including education of self and others, and providing direct support to key organisations.

Recommended resources for self-education and further reading:

  • Brockman, R., & Dudgeon, P. (2020). Indigenous Clinical Psychology in Australia: A Decolonising Social–Emotional Well-Being Approach. In P. Rhodes (Ed.) , Beyond the psychology industry: How else might we heal? (pp.83-93). Springer International Publishing.
  • Purdie, N., Dudgeon, P., & Walker, R. (Eds.) (2010). Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice. (1st ed.) Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
  • Dudgeon, P., Garvey, D., & Pickett, H. (Eds.) (2000). Working with Indigenous Australians: A handbook for psychologists. Perth, WA: Gunada Press.
  • Pascoe, B. (2014). Dark Emu. Australia: Magabala Books.
  • Atkinson, J. (2003). Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines. Australia, Spinifex Press.
  • Heiss, A. (2018). Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia. Australia: Black Inc.
  • Heiss, A. (2012). Am I Black Enough For You. Australia: Transworld Publishers.

Key organisations:

  • Common Ground aims to help Australians see the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures by providing access to engaging and authentic content that help bridge gaps in knowledge. Support them here:
  • The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) provides legal advice and representation for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory. Support them here:
  • The National Justice Project is a not-for-profit legal service that represents and gives a voice to the vulnerable who would otherwise be unable to find legal representation. Within this organisation sits another project called the Aboriginal Health Justice Project. Support them here:
  • The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that supports the healing of Stolen Generations survivors, families and communities. Support them here:
  • Change the Record works to end the incarceration of, and family violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is Australia’s only national Aboriginal led coalition of Aboriginal peak bodies and non-Indigenous allies. Support them here:

ACPA gratefully acknowledges the contribution to the development of this statement by ACPA members: Mary Goslett, a Buddawang woman of the Yuin nation; Rob Brockman, a descendant of the Worimi People of NSW; and Mikaela Smee.