Indigenous Australians and mental health

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, health is a holistic concept that includes physical, social, emotional, cultural, and spiritual wellbeing for the individual and the community. Culturally safe and holistic mental health services are required to build positive mental health outcomes, and organisations must partner with First Nations people to deliver meaningful mental health services.

Involving local community members in service delivery enables engagement with clients in appropriate healthcare. Aboriginal people must be included in leadership positions and decision-making processes, and an Aboriginal workforce delivering primary healthcare ensures a culturally safe environment.


Looking Forward Project: Nyoongar peoples’ access to and experiences with mental health services

The Looking Forward Project led by Dr Michael Wright was designed to increase responsiveness and accessibility of the mental health and drug and alcohol service system for Nyoongar families living in the south-east Perth metropolitan corridor (Armadale to Bentley) whose lives are affected by mental illness.

The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) joined the Looking Forward Project as a member of the service provider stakeholder group.  The project involved partnering with Nyoongar Elders and the project team to build relationships and discuss changes to improve Nyoongar peoples’ access to and experiences with mental health services.

The project led to the development and implementation of a culturally secure system change framework for mental health service delivery to enhance the skills of the mental health workforce by bringing them together with Nyoongar Elders to better respond to the mental health needs of Aboriginal families.  

The ‘Minditj Kaart-Moorditj Kaart’ Framework is a change intervention and provides the structure for sustainable engagement.

After extensive information gathering, the project team discovered the four key attributes of trustworthiness, inclusivity, reciprocity and adaptability as essential to affect system change and improve service delivery for Nyoongar people and their families living with mental illness.