Dr Clinton Schultz, director of First Nations partnership and strategy at the Black Dog Institute is advocating for increased funding and services for community-led social and emotional wellbeing support throughout the Uluru Statement from the Heart process.
The social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is being tested as the Voice debate ramps up.
Last week, the Senate passed legislation to hold a vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament within the next six months.
Mental health professionals say the intensity and racial tone of the Voice referendum conversation is already having a negative impact on the mental health of First Nations people.
Leading mental health organisation, the Black Dog Institute has been monitoring the impacts of the referendum on First Nations people and is advocating for community-led social and emotional wellbeing support throughout the Uluru Statement from the Heart process.
It comes a month after the Albanese government allocated over $10 million in the 2023 budget to mental health programs for Indigenous people during the period of the Voice campaign, after the eSafety Commission said it had seen an uptick in racial vilification of Indigenous people in response to the referendum, which it expected to increase.
Gamilaroi/Gomeroi man and Director of First Nations Partnership and Strategy at Black Dog Institute, Dr Clinton Schultz welcomed the funding, but says both sides of the Voice campaign need to put the social and emotional wellbeing of mob first.
“Governments, and media to be honest, need to take some responsibility and look at what they can do to ensure that we’re not increasing undue social, emotional wellbeing distress in the first place.
“The upcoming Voice Referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, that we should not shy away from,” says Dr Schultz, “But we should be aware of the risks involved in having the debate and be proactive in reducing its potential harms.
“We are particularly concerned about the potential increase in racism and lateral violence as the debate intensifies.”