To be attributed to Jason Trethowan, headspace CEO:
Every year, thousands of First Nations young people choose headspace to support them with personal challenges.
They might come in for a coffee and a yarn, for help with their work and study goals, or for a series of more in-depth counselling sessions.
Among the things they tell us is that the period leading up to January 26, and the days and weeks that follow, is a difficult and complex time.
Invasion Day is a stark reminder of when colonisation came to this continent, and the racism First Nations people have experienced ever since.
To this day, colonisation continues to impact First Nations people’s connections to their land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community – all things that are key to good social and emotional wellbeing.
Something that comes up time and time again in my conversations with different mobs, Elders, Aboriginalled organisations and young people is how exhausting it is to constantly explain why this time of year is so difficult.
It’s time to draw a line in the sand, for the conversation to shift, for whitefellas like me and mainstream organisations like headspace to take what Indigenous Australians are telling us and start acting on it.
This isn’t an easy conversation to have.
But any discomfort I feel is dwarfed by the intergenerational trauma experienced today by many First Nations people.
Instead, we should be using that discomfort to unite us on this journey of truth-telling.
As the national youth mental health foundation, headspace is the first to admit we haven’t always got it right.
We still have much to learn about how to ensure our spaces are safe and welcoming for First Nations young people.
But we are listening, learning and acting.
We are listening to mobs, Elders, Aboriginal-led organisations and First Nations young people all across Australia, hundreds of whom sat down with headspace as part of a comprehensive review of our engagement with First Nations young people.
They told us that cultural healing and safety are central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s wellbeing, and so they should be central to how headspace works as well.
We are listening to our First Nations Wellbeing and Engagement division – a team of First Nations people and allies led by an identified leadership position in the headspace executive.
Standing in solidarity with First Nations people on Invasion Day is part of that change. Solidarity is about respect, love and inclusiveness.
Solidarity is about creating a culturally safer environment for First Nations people, understanding the truth, acknowledging the history and finding a way forward together with a strong and capable community.
Our message to First Nations young people is this: headspace is a place you can go for support when you’ve got a lot going on.
headspace sees you and values you – your Country, your community and your culture.
Let us walk alongside you, on the road to healing.