During such a contentious time of year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself while trying to fight for your community.
For mob, good health is more than the absence of illness. It is a notion that includes an individual’s physical, social, cultural, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. For ourselves and our people.
While many of us feel it is important to take part in the discourse surrounding Invasion Day, the demand of engaging with mob and counterparts, watching the news, and scrolling through social media takes its toll.
Fatigue, exhaustion and burnout are all phrases that circulate long before the rallies, marches or community gatherings that take place.
Joe Williams, a proud Wiradjuri man, ex-football player, boxer and now mental health advocate, said the narrative that First Nations people endure throughout January is draining.
“We can feel it coming, I’m sick of the day before it arrives,” he said.
“It’s hugely important to look after yourself, it’s one thing to be mentally drained, but we are deeply spiritual people, to be emotionally and spiritually drained is a whole other level.”
“The negativity of January 26 and the discourse leading up to it is just physically and emotionally and draining to the point I’ve deleted one of my social media accounts this time last year to not have to deal with the discourse.”
Williams added that having to be a point of education or enlightenment for non-Indigenous counterparts is not only taxing but also unnecessary.
“The information is there now, if you aren’t educated that’s on you. The truth, the journals and history — it’s one click away,” Williams said.
“We have access to a world of information when it comes to others chasing information from us, rather than our perspectives. It isn’t good enough.
“I am consciously not getting involved in the negative discourse for my own wellbeing, I tell my kids not to respond or argue with negativity at this time of the year.”
Williams said while change is slow, it is happening for Australia.
“Back in 2016 I refused to stand for the anthem, and off the back of that went on to write about changing the anthem and changing the date. I copped a lot of serious abuse,” he said.
“These days, if we were to publish a similar article a hundred of our allies would repost it in support.”
With tensions high, it can be easy to shift expectations onto the communities around us.
“We need to empower one another rather than throwing each other under the bus,” Williams said.
“Some mob can struggle spiritually being at these types of things but feel a pressure to show up.
“I can only control me, not everyone else, but one thing I won’t do in all of this is pull another brother or sister down.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
- First Nations Suicide Prevention Crisis Line – 1800 370 747
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Darby Ingram