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Tue, 13 Feb 2024

Call to hear new voices

Mental health
Image: Ángel López

A James Cook University psychiatrist says new Indigenous voices need to be heard in the wake of the defeated Voice to Parliament referendum.

Dr Andrew Amos said truly representative First Nations’ voices must not be afraid to engage in the most difficult conversations, such as those around the reporting and prevention of family violence in remote communities.

Dr Amos is Chair of the Queensland Section of Rural Psychiatry, RANZ College of Psychiatrists and author of a new article in the College’s journal - Australian Psychiatry.

He said the Voice to Parliament referendum was partly justified as being a means to improve the mental health of First Nations’ Australians, despite concerns the process and its outcome might worsen both.

“There are many gaps between First Nations’ and other Australians' health and wellbeing, widening with remoteness. First Nations Australians report health care access requires communication and trust to overcome barriers of distance and logistics.”

He said research by the federal government confirms family violence increases with remoteness.

“Contributing factors include social/geographic isolation, stigma/shame, and the lack of privacy when all community members have personal relationships with local police and health professionals,” said Dr Amos.

He said the success of alternatives to the Voice should be measured by how well they engage with the most difficult questions, such as the role of cultural factors in the health and mental health of women and children in remote communities.

“The suggestion that the health and mental health of First Nations’ women and children in rural and remote communities is affected by cultural factors is difficult to discuss. However, any process likely to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all First Nations’ people must be able to handle this type of discussion,” said Dr Amos.


Dr Andrew Amos
E: andrew.amos@jcu.edu.au