30 August, 2023

We’ve been seeing a lot of opinions on The Voice to Parliament in the media lately. 

The Voice conversation is an important one, but it’s also a challenging and distressing time for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities. 

Being the focus of such strong political opinions, misinformation, and racism may have a significant impact on some First Nations Peoples’ mental, emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing. 

We’d like to offer some ways to look after yourself and your loved ones in the lead up to the referendum. 

RAQ recognises from the Uluru Statement from the Heart that sovereignty was never ceded and acknowledges that while First Nations individuals will each have different views on The Voice, the right to self-determination is shared by all.  

RAQ’s First Nations Workforce has generously shared their unique perspectives to lead us to an organisational position in favour of The Voice. We invite you to read the Statement from RAQ’s First Nations Employees on The Voice Referendum. 


Stay Connected

Racial stress can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s more important than ever to stay connected with your family, community, and culture when you’re struggling. 

Studies show strong and healthy connections to community can help build a sense of cultural identity, increase social and emotional wellbeing, strengthen resilience, and help to protect against suicide. 

Keep up with your social activities and talk to mob about how you’re feeling. It can help to talk things through with people who understand your experience. Remember to check in on how they’re feeling too, and lean on each other. 


Look after your Mind and Body

It’s normal to let your healthy habits slip when you’re not feeling your best, but try to take small steps to look after your body where you can. 

Mental health and physical health are closely connected. Try to focus on things you can control - even little things like preparing healthy food, going for a walk, and getting enough sleep can help you set the tone for how you feel and go about your day.

Prioritise the things that make you feel happy and calm, whether it’s seeing friends, reading, playing sport, creating art, or doing self-care exercises like deep breathing and meditation. 


Set Safe Boundaries

Give yourself permission to protect yourself emotionally and spiritually, and remove yourself from people and situations that are triggering or unproductive. 

Speak your truth and let your friends know if you’re not in the mood for the conversation, or suggest changing the subject if it’s impacting you. 

If your friends don’t respect your boundary or they’re not willing to do the work to understand your culture and your experience, it’s OK to walk away from that relationship and seek out others who are willing to respect you and your culture.

It’s also important to remember that you’re not obligated to educate others. 

Sometimes people look to those with lived experiences as ambassadors of their communities, expecting them to be an activist or educator for others. 

This is common for First Nations Peoples as well as for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, refugees and asylum seekers, and those who belong to multicultural and faith communities. 

While you might have lived experience and strong opinions, it should not be an expectation or obligation for you to share them. 

It might not be culturally appropriate or a safe environment, or you may simply not have the energy for the heavy lifting and mental load of educating others. 

Remember to balance your values with your physical and emotional wellbeing. 

Aunty Debra Bennet, Lead Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Cultural Advisor, shares some advice in this blog post: When Your White Friends Won’t Talk About Race.


Limit Exposure to News and Media 

It’s never been easier for people to publicly share their thoughts and opinions online. The constant exposure to content related to The Voice and other issues can lead to burnout and distress.

If scrolling through the news and social media is upsetting you, it might be time to take a break. Remember you can mute, unfollow, or hide social media posts, accounts, or topics. 

It can be especially helpful to avoid upsetting topics right before bedtime, as this “doomscrolling” can  impact your sense of balance and inner peace, cause feelings of anxiety, and interrupt your sleep.


Know the Signs and Seek Help 

Feelings are strong on both sides of The Voice debate. No matter how you intend to vote, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions in the leadup to the referendum. 

Some First Nations Peoples might feel anxious, frustrated, upset, scared, or misunderstood. 

It’s important that we’re aware of the impact The Voice debate may have, and the signs we might need to reach out for help from community or a professional. 

Some impacts might include:  

  • Increased anxiety and depression  
  • Changes in sleep and appetite  
  • Feeling fearful and unsafe  
  • Feelings of shame  
  • Trauma and PTSD  
  • Chronic stress  
  • Suicidal thoughts.  

    If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you know, free and confidential help is available 24/7. 

    For 24/7 crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or to talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter, call 13YARN on 13 92 76. 

    RAQ offers culturally safe counselling and support services for First Nations Peoples. You can call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or get help finding the right support for you. 


    No matter where you stand on The Voice debate, the safety, wellbeing, and respect of our First Nations Peoples should be everyone’s priority. 

    We invite you to share our blog post with your communities: How to be Sensitive to First Nations Peoples during The Voice Referendum Debate.