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COVID-19 Mental Health Response

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 working party was convened through the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Project at the University of Western Australia, to produce an independent report that addressed the specific mental health and social and emotional wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

Over 30 Indigenous leaders in mental health and wellbeing contributed to A National COVID-19 Pandemic Issues Paper on Mental Health and Wellbeing For Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples. This Report calls for a coordinated response based on best practice research in Indigenous mental health and wellbeing. Indigenous governance must be prioritised to manage the COVID-19 recovery in communities through equitable, needs-based funding to support strengths-based, place-based, Indigenous-led, and community-led initiatives that address the social and cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.

This report details five key recommendations focused on:
1) right to self-determination,
2) the health and mental health workforce,
3) social and cultural determinants of health,
4) digital and telehealth inclusion with immediate attention to an Indigenous helpline, and
5) evaluation that includes Indigenous data sovereignty.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention within the University’s School of Indigenous Studies, who led the working group, said,

“Our people are already more than twice as likely as other Australians to die by suicide, and COVID-19 has put many more of us at risk of severe psychological distress. We are calling on all governments to respond to these clear findings with equitable investment to support strengths-based, place-based, Indigenous-led initiatives to protect our health and wellbeing.”

If you or someone you know needs help or support, you can contact your local Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation or

  • Lifeline: 131 114
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyondblue 1300 22 46 36
  • Q Life 1800 18 45 27,
  • Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling 1800 01 10 46
  • The National Indigenous Critical Response Service 1800 80 58 01
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