For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the observance of Australia Day on January 26 is a distressing reminder of a traumatic history.
For some people, however, the day is associated with a gathering of family or celebrating a personal connection to Australia.
In acknowledgement of the hurt suffered by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Youth Focus – WA’s leading provider of youth mental health services – will be providing services to the community on January 26.
“For us, it’s about respecting and acknowledging that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians feel profound offence, hurt and exclusion during the celebrations on this date,” Youth Focus chief operating officer Angie Perkins said.
“Professor Pat Dudgeon reports that suicide is the fifth-leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, compared to the 14th among non-Indigenous people. In particular, 15 to 24 year olds are over five times as likely to suicide as their non-Indigenous peers.”
On January 26, some of the Youth Focus centres and the headspace centres managed by Youth Focus will be open to see young people. Those centres that aren’t open will be acknowledging the day in a way that reflects their community’s needs.
Youth Focus operates from eight metropolitan and regional offices in WA, and is the lead agency for four headspace centres.
On January 26, 2023, Youth Focus Burswood, headspace Midland and headspace Albany will all be open as usual, offering support to young people aged 12 to 24.
This will be the second consecutive year that headspace Albany has remained open on January 26.
“We know the day is one that has very different meanings for different people,” headspace Albany manager Andrew Wenzel said. “For some, it’s about celebration and pride. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it can be a confronting reminder of a traumatic and painful history, and ongoing division, that does come with a negative impact on wellbeing.
“So, in acknowledging the complexities around the meaning of January 26, our team in Albany has again chosen to be open for all young people and their families, to make sure the support is there if it’s needed. We already have several bookings on the day.”
headspace Northam, Youth Focus Bunbury and Youth Focus Mandurah will be closed, however staff will be working to answer new enquiries and continue connecting young people with the support they need.
Although headspace Geraldton will be closed, the team will be joining the community on the Geraldton foreshore – an event always well attended and supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community.
In Meekatharra, Youth Focus staff will be working at the community awards day, which culminates in a community fun day at the pool.
“We will be working and helping to promote community togetherness and awareness with the young people, other service providers and the community in general,” Youth Focus Meekatharra team leader Paulette Anderson said.
Youth Focus prides itself on being a collaborative, person-centred organisation, where the needs of the young person are always put first.