In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 working party has been convened through the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Project at the University of Western Australia to produce an independent report that addresses the specific mental health, and social and emotional wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
- Structural change is needed. The current pandemic mental health plan and system is not sufficient to prevent the worst-case scenario for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the predicted new mental health and suicide epidemic. Immediate action is needed to ensure culturally safe services are accessible and sufficiently resourced to support the psychosocial recovery from lockdown, restricted practices, and the inevitable economic recession to follow.
- First Nations communities have been kept physically safe through a highly successful COVID-19 health response due to the innovation, leadership, and management of the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector (ACCHO), led by National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NAACHO) and peak organisations that were prepared to respond independently and early in the pandemic.
- Indigenous-led actions have demonstrated the importance and impact of self-determination in promoting the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples in contemporary Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations must be supported to lead the COVID-19 pandemic recovery responses for their communities and peoples.
- There is a huge need to provide accessible and affordable Internet access and ensure digital and tele-health services to Indigenous communities are culturally safe and trauma-informed.
Indigenous governance must be prioritised to manage the COVID-19 recovery in communities through equitable, needs-based funding to support strengths-based, place-based, Indigenous-led, and community-led initiatives that address the social and cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.