Psychologists issue official apology to Aboriginal People

By September 21, 2016 No Comments

The Age reported on the 14 September 2016 that the APS ( Australian Psychological Association) apologised formally to all Aboriginal peoples for cultural traumas and insensitivities by their profession in the name of assessment and treatment.

“This is a world first I believe”, said TheMHS Management Committee Member Alan Rosen.

This is their version of an apology crafted with the direct advice of APS’s indigenous Psychologists Advisory Group (IPAG), initiated by Alan Rosen’s submission to all mental health professions.

Click here to read the Apology


The following is the article from The Age.

Psychologists issue official apology to Aboriginal People


Bianca Hall

Written by Bianca Hall

They contributed to the mistreatment of Aboriginal people and the erosion of their culture and, even today, fail to properly understand how to help Aboriginal people under their care.

That’s the mea culpa of Australian psychologists – courtesy of their peak body, the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

“We have not always listened carefully enough to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” says Australian Psychological Society president Michael Kyrios. 

The society officially apologised on Thursday for its profession’s treatment of Aboriginal Australians over more than 200 years, promising to do better in understanding and supporting Indigenous people.

But how will that work in practice?

Issuing the formal apology, APS president Michael Kyrios said professionals would try to listen more and talk less, to include more and ignore less, and to collaborate more and “command” less.

“We, as psychologists, have not always listened carefully enough to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Professor Kyrios said.


“We have not always respected their skills, expertise, world views, and unique wisdom developed over thousands of years.”

Worse, he said, was “our silence and lack of advocacy on important policy matters such as the policy of forced removal which resulted in the Stolen Generations.”

Professor Patricia Dudgeon, who was Australia’s first Indigenous psychologist, said the science of psychology relied on a Western, individualistic understanding of “self”, which was fundamentally different to the communal sense of self experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“For Indigenous people, we are preoccupied with our own cultural identity …  [as it’s tied to] social and emotional wellbeing.

“You’ve got family, community, country, land, culture and spirituality. A patient sitting in front of you – you can’t just see them as an individual removed from that.”

The APS will urge its members to abandon some diagnostic tools, which were developed by Western doctors for Western patients and are culturally problematic in Aboriginal societies.

Among those will be traditional IQ tests.

Professor Dudgeon said she had been horrified, when she was a member of the Parole Board, to see IQ tests used on Indigenous prisoners from traditional cultures, who spoke English as a second or third language.

The APS says there are about 100 Indigenous psychologists in Australia, but hundreds more are needed – particularly in areas with large Indigenous populations.