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More Indigenous psychologists wanted

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Australian Psychological Society's Heather Gridley

The Australian Psychological Society is working to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychologists in Australia.

The APS estimates there are only about 50 Indigenous psychologists working across the nation despite the high demand for Indigenous psychology graduates in the health workforce.

APS manager of public interest Heather Gridley said the organisation is taking steps to increase the number of Indigenous psychology students and graduates.

Ms Gridley said there is ample opportunity for Indigenous Australians wanting to forge a career in psychology.

“They are incredibly employable because we have got so few,” she said.

“They will actually find themselves in great demand. In so much demand they burn out, so we have to support the

very small numbers from that point of view.

“If they can get through the training they can see there’s an opportunity to work in their own community or to work in the mainstream. That will be their choice.

“They will certainly get work. That’s probably the good news for anybody who is thinking of that as a career.”

The move includes initiatives such as scholarships, mentoring and tutoring to help assist Indigenous students and graduates, and forms a key part of the APS’ Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Recently launched at the 47th APS Annual Conference in Perth, the plan includes a raft of initiatives aimed at bolstering the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

The plan also commits the APS to achieving the promotion of cultural competency in psychological research and practice, facilitating the adoption of more Indigenous content into the psychology curriculum and building respectful partnerships with Indigenous communities.

The plan comes as the recorded rate of psychological distress of Indigenous Australians is twice that of the non-Indigenous population and the rate of suicide is almost three times greater.

Ms Gridley encouraged psychologists to “get involved” in the RAP, which is aimed at problem solving but also focuses on engaging with Aboriginal culture.

“Do they know their local Aboriginal community elders and do they know how to organise a Welcome to Country or when to refer clients to see an Aboriginal doctor?

“Don’t use ignorance as an excuse, do something about it,” Ms Gridley said.

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