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A Conversation About… Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Climate Change and Covid 19

Join Prof. Pat Dudgeon (a Bardi woman from the Kimberley in Western Australia), Dr Stewart Sutherland (a Wiradjuri man) and Prof. Alan Rosen across this four part series as they discuss how, by living in harmony with nature, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are, at the same time, a strength and a priority in our response to the significant impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Episode 1. Prehistoric & Historic context :The impact of the “Anthropocene” epoch

The current geological age, during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. How Aboriginal people see and experience environment. Living in harmony with nature –and the impact of destroyed Country on spirit.

Colonial invasion, entailing massacres, dispossessions, stolen children and destruction of cultural heritage, has impacted adversely on Aboriginal mental health for generations. The effects of colonial eugenic and institutional mind-sets on the development of our mental health facilities & professions, and consequently on the lives of Indigenous peoples. New Green Shoots: How can we mobilize “Active Hope”?

Episode 2. What are the impacts on Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and other Indigenous communities of Droughts-Fires-Pandemic-Floods?

“Domino” (serial, overlapping and cumulative) Climate Crises and regional to global “Poly-crises”? These can include massive loss of species, of familiar habitat (Solastalgia), cultural totems, and custodial access to Country, as well as loss of health, well-being, homes and employment. How can climate change disrupt cultural practices, e.g., meeting, hunting and feasting together? Is there a prospective threat of displacement from Country? New green shoots: pro-active constructive responses by Aboriginal communities to the drought, bushfires, pandemics, floods and other climate change events, and what we can all do about them.

Episode 3. a) Why are Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples still among priority populations for prevention and amelioration of physical and mental health crises due to Climate Change?

Following colonisation, are climate disasters rekindling transgenerational traumas? Existential threats due to quintuple-whammy social determinants, disadvantage, and complexity factors like unsuitable housing, overcrowding and poverty plus remote living, harsh extremes of climate, terrain, and sea-rise prone living? Cultural determinants: like concern & responsibility to keep country, waters, species, families, communities, elders and stories healthy and alive, as their precious totems, knowledge keepers, libraries and life-force? Moreover, Indigenous peoples have been demonstrating leadership in caring for our planet, and warning about its degradation for so long, and have so much to offer to climate solutions. On these grounds alone, shouldn’t Indigenous peoples be regarded as priority populations?

Episode 3. b) Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander strengths and achievements in the face of Covid19 and Bushfires and Droughts.

What has the coordination of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander agencies from federal to local communities achieved for Aboriginal communities with COVID19? How can Aboriginal and other Indigenous communities be valued for, and more systematically invited to contribute to effective climate solutions for our wider societies and planet Earth? These include strategies for preventing and managing extreme droughts, bushfires, pandemics, flooding and ‘domino’ crises, to help us restore and ensure our continuing survival, wellbeing, and flourishing.

Episode 4. a) Operationalizing Active Hope: What Aboriginal & other Indigenous peoples can offer to Societal Solutions?

Addressing public health, disadvantage in social determinants, physical and psycho-social and emotional wellbeing, culturally, spiritually and practically, as well as contributing to wider societal solutions, working in partnership with co-leadership and co-design.

Episode 4. b) How can Indigenous peoples survive, thrive and flourish while addressing the dangers of climate change?

We need to work “Two Ways” on Indigenous mental health, simultaneously implementing the best of evidence-based interventions and service delivery sub-systems on one hand, while mobilizing cultural & spiritual knowledge and healing on the other), and synergising both for complex mental disorders. Aboriginal Mental Health Workers are trained in their degree course to work like this.

Click here to listen: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 

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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