Reconciliation must also mean recognition and self-determination

28 May 2020

As we recognise and celebrate National Reconciliation Week, we also take time to reflect on the important role that psychiatrists play in working towards the improvement of mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is committed to contributing to the reduction of inequality in mental health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by preparing and supporting our psychiatrists to provide culturally appropriate psychiatric care.

President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor John Allan has affirmed the ongoing contribution psychiatrists can make in supporting self-determination by improving the quality of mental health services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘As psychiatrists, we have a central role to play in acknowledging and supporting those with past trauma and the RANZCP is committed to working with communities to reduce the mental health inequalities in our society.

‘This commitment is shown through our everyday practice, as well as the advocacy and direct action the RANZCP is undertaking to encourage and support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors on their journey to become psychiatrists.

‘Reconciliation week is a time for us to reflect on and learn about our shared stories, histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how we can best contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

‘This is especially important, as this week also marks three years since 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered and made history at the First Nations Conventions and together agreed to work towards establishing a First Nations voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

‘The RANZCP continues to commit our support toward the formation of this voice, which will place the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples front and centre in our journey towards reconciliation.

Substantive constitutional reform to acknowledge the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the traditional owners and custodians of Australia, is crucial on this pathway and represents an important step towards forging a more constructive and genuine shared national identity.

‘The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution will go a long way to recognising and supporting their mental health and human rights’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘Over many years now, psychiatrists have observed the snowballing effect that exclusion has on the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

‘Constitutional recognition alone will not put an end to the mental health inequality, however there is evidence to show that self-determination and supportive societal structures can be a protective factor against negative mental health outcomes.

‘Acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and introducing a collective voice to parliament is one of many important ways in which Australia can begin to move forward in a spirit of partnership and unity.

The RANZCP recognises the importance of remembering and continuing to acknowledge the past trauma experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is committed to supporting their journey to constitutional recognition and healing.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.