2023 Robin Winkler Lecture

Audio and Slides

Pat Dudgeon 


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Self-Determination, and The Voice referendum

The 2023 Robin Winkler Lecture by Professor Patricia Dudgeon, School of Indigenous Studies, UWA.

12 September 2023

The mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has become a critical issue and available data indicates an entrenched, worsening, mental health crisis. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide occurs at double the rate of other Australians. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of 15 to 34 years of age, accounting for 1 in 3 deaths. At the core of any solutions are concepts of valuing culture and Indigenous governance (self-determination). New approaches highlight the importance of the mental health profession engaging with Indigenous people in ways that support self-determination through assisting recovery and maintaining culture.

In her lecture, Professor Dudgeon outlined significant national projects that UWA has led to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention. She also provided an overview of the concept of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB). This concept, which has emerged as crucially important within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing, goes beyond notions such as ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ to encapsulate something much broader and more holistic. It recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community as well as how these interrelate to impact the individual, their family, and their community. In addition to historical determinants, the influence of political determinants also represent important considerations in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing. There has been an increase in experiences of racism as the nation moves closer to the Australian Indigenous Voice referendum.

Professor Dudgeon discussed what the Voice means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the potential impacts of either a yes or no outcome on wellbeing.

About the Speaker

Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people in Western Australia. She is a psychologist and professor at the Poche Centre for Aboriginal Health and the School of Indigenous Studies at UWA. Her area of research includes Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. She is the director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention at UWA. She is also the lead chief investigator of a national research project, "Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing", that aims to develop approaches to Indigenous mental health services that promote cultural values and strengths as well as empowering users. Pat has many publications in Indigenous mental health, in particular, the Working Together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principals and Practice 2014.

The Robin Winkler Lecture commemorates the work of Robin Winkler, a highly influential teacher and researcher at the UWA School of Psychological Science, whose work was guided by humanitarian values and a relentless questioning of accepted orthodoxies. Robin was a community psychologist and passionate advocate of the importance of equal access to psychological services, and of recognition of the social context in which treatment and research is being undertaken. He died at the age of 41 while heading the UWA Clinical Master’s program at the Psychology Clinic, which he established and which now bears his name. In the Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology he is described as “a singular, crusading figure” in Australian psychology.

This lecture was presented by the UWA School of Psychological Science.