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Indigenous mental health peak wants support for young mob reeling from Voice defeat

Jarred Cross -

Australia's national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, and suicide prevention is warning of the effects left in the wake of the Voice referendum.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia has called on the Government to make an immediate and genuine commitment to addressing remaining impacts endured by First Peoples - particularly younger generations.

Gayaa Dhuwi chief executive, Rachel Fishlock, said the landslide 'no' vote returned by the country in October extinguished an opportunity in front of them before ever being able to take shape.

"There are two particularly impacted groups that need immediate support and assistance," Ms Fishlock said.

"The first is our young people who were offered a voice for the first time in their lives, spoke up, and were rejected by the majority of Australia.

"The second group is our young people who weren't old enough to vote and didn't get to have a say – despite the results of the referendum significantly impacting their futures."

The referendum failed to return a majority 'yes' in all jurisdiction across the country, with the exception of the ACT, with less than 40 per cent of all voters backing constitutional change.

Emotional exhaustion was felt before polling day, with calls to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander crisis support service 13YARN more than doubling leading up to October 14.

Gayaa Dhuwi chair Professor Helen Milroy said ongoing impacts "will be felt across the life course".

"We are very concerned about the impact of the referendum on the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationwide," Professor Milroy said.

At the same time the Government recommitted to supporting mental health and suicide prevention system's with $483.7 million of funding for services, Gayaa Dhuwi have developed a proposal for supporting Indigenous young people in the current environment to be considered.

The Government handed down its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook to the 2023-24 federal budget last week, with 13YARN identified to benefit from investment.

Ms Fishlock welcomed the announcement, but said immediate funding for Indigenous young people "can't wait".

Indigenous Allied Health Australia chief executive, Donna Murray, said leadership is key in strong futures.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership is critical to ensure that the perspectives and voices of our young people are prominent and central in their social and emotional wellbeing," Ms Murray said.

"We know that activating and empowering our young leaders, improves confidence in self and culture, to their wellbeing, and to that of the broader community".

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