The Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration aims to improve the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by supporting their leadership in those parts of the mental health system that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
A further aim is to promote an appropriate balance of clinical and culturally-informed mental health system responses, including by providing access to cultural healing, to mental health problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait persons. Developed by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH) as a companion document to the international Wharerātā Declaration, the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration also sets out principles for governments, professional bodies and other stakeholders to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in the Australian mental health system; and principles for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health leaders as they exercise culturally informed leadership within the Australian mental health system. The Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration is being promoted by NATSILMH as a new paradigm for shaping mental health system responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander mental health problems.
This paper explores the interface between Mad Studies and Indigenous ways of knowing, and argues that the dialogical expanse that exists between these two fields could be a site for innovation, co-creation, and decolonization.
Mad Studies is a radical approach to studying the ways we organize and respond to mental health experiences. The field questions and unsettles biomedical understandings of mental illness, and frames psychiatric experiences as diverse forms of human emotional or spiritual expression. Indigenous perspectives on disability describe mental health using a holistic, wellness-based lens, with many scholars highlighting the link to colonial violence and oppression. The interface of Mad Studies and Indigenous ways of knowing could provide a unique platform for gaining a broader understanding of Indigenous mental health while resisting Western, psy explanations of emotional distress. Different interpretations and understandings can be discussed and debated, and through ethical spaces (Ermine, 2007) new understandings or ideas may emerge. These, in turn, may help decolonize some of the dominant biomedical biases that underpin many contemporary psychiatric treatment approaches.
Social workers have a particularly important role to play in these conversations. Our professional commitment to anti-oppression and social justice implores us to take an active role in these debates. Through our workplaces we can problematize dominant discourses from within dominant systems, and make our contribution to decolonization.
The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum and the National Primary Health Network Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and live on across Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.
“A lived experience recognises the effects of ongoing negative historical impacts and or specific events on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It encompasses the cultural, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the individual, family or community.
“People with lived or living experience of suicide are those who have experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through a suicidal crisis, been bereaved by suicide or having a loved one who has died by suicide, acknowledging that this experience is significantly different and takes into consideration Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ways of understanding social and emotional wellbeing.” - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre
We welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to this site and invite them to provide any feedback or items for inclusion.
We also recognise people with lived and living experience of mental ill-health and recovery and the experience of people who are carers, families, kin, or supporters.