26 May 2023

Mind First Nations Lead Practitioner Trudy Sansbury says one reason many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people don’t access mental health services is because they don’t know they exist. 

Ms Sansbury, a proud Naraungga woman, mentors Mind staff in South Australia to better understand and meet the mental health support needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

She says understanding cultural sensitivities is crucial for staff to foster connection and trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders seeking support. 

“When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do seek support, they don’t have the confidence to talk about personal things straight away – we’re talking about sensitive things that they just don’t know how to address openly.” 

Ms Sansbury offers Mind staff advice on communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, encouraging them to meet them on their terms in a non-judgemental way to make a connection. 

“Staff often have questions about how to interact with or approach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, so I sit down and have a yarn with them about how I can help them effectively deliver support,” Ms Sansbury said. 

Connecting the service to local communities is important in building trust, Ms Sansbury said. 

“A lot of Indigenous people think if they have issues that those issues might be used against them, for instance being locked up in jail because they are deemed ‘crazy’. So, it makes sense to go out to them, and connect with them in community or amongst family and friends.” 

“At the end of the day, we’re all working together to support the people in our communities.” 

Denise Cumming, Mind’s Executive Director of Operations for South Australia, said it is crucial for organisations to have identified roles that represent diverse perspectives. 

“Mind values diverse perspectives of people with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health across service design and delivery, governance, business development and senior leadership,” Ms Cumming said. 

“Having identified roles ensures that we are truly embedding these voices into everything we do. It means we are learning from these experiences, and constantly adapting our practices to best support our communities.” 

Developing and implementing practice guidelines, tools and training programs that provide staff with the skills needed to support people of Aboriginal heritage is one of the key commitments in Mind’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – the crucial next step in our strategic vision for inclusive and innovative mental health services. 

Learn more about Mind’s commitments to reconciliation

If this article raises concerns for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

If you would like more information about Mind services near you, please contact us via Mind Connect or phone: 1300 286 463.