Diverging Perspectives on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Wesley Enoch, a prominent Indigenous playwright, is feeling the weight of the ongoing debate around the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The emotional toll is taking a toll on his mental health, as he struggles to sleep and finds it difficult to engage in conversations with his family. This reflects a common sentiment among many Indigenous Australians who are bearing the burden of the referendum and experiencing high levels of stress and psychological distress.

Psychologist Clinton Schultz explains that the confusion surrounding the referendum has given rise to feelings of distrust, anger, and negative emotions among the broader population. However, the Indigenous community is affected at a deeper level due to the additional stress of discrimination and the cultural load they carry. The term “cultural load” refers to the responsibility Indigenous people often face in educating non-Indigenous individuals and representing their community.

Fiona Cornforth, a researcher at the Australian National University, points out the burden of expectation placed on Indigenous people to not only have a view on the Voice but also to explain it in legal terms. This unrealistic expectation adds to the pressure Indigenous individuals already face, leading to burnout and exhaustion.

The ongoing debate has also exacerbated racism, with Indigenous people experiencing higher levels of discrimination as the vote approaches. Leda Barnett, an Indigenous counselling psychologist, notes that the psychological response to racism typically follows a pattern of shock, fight/flight/fawn, and withdrawal. Dr. Schultz suggests coping mechanisms to regain control in such situations, emphasizing the importance of choosing the safest method for oneself.


What is the Indigenous Voice to Parliament?

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament refers to a proposed mechanism that would provide Indigenous Australians with a formal platform to express their views and be heard in the decision-making process.

What is the cultural load?

The cultural load refers to the additional responsibility that falls on Indigenous individuals to educate non-Indigenous people and represent their community in discussions about Indigenous issues.

How does the ongoing debate impact Indigenous mental health?

The ongoing debate surrounding the Indigenous Voice to Parliament is taking a toll on the mental health of Indigenous Australians. It has led to increased stress, burnout, and psychological distress, exacerbated by the undercurrent of discrimination and racism faced by Indigenous people.

What are some coping mechanisms for dealing with racism?

When facing racism, it is important to prioritize one’s safety and choose coping mechanisms that work best for oneself. This may involve seeking support from trusted individuals, engaging in self-care activities, and finding ways to create a sense of empowerment and agency.