Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

This graphic is of the Australian Aboriginal Flag, which represents Aboriginal Australians. It is one of the official flags of Australia and holds special legal and political status. The symbolic meaning of the flag colours is that black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia, the yellow circle represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector, and red represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land.Speech Pathology Australia recognises, values and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, knowledges, languages and ways of healing and the connection to, and custodianship of, land, waterways and sea. We recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the face of historic and current injustices. We acknowledge that colonisation and institutional racism has resulted in a society where there is inequity between the health, educational and wellbeing outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

Speech Pathology Australia recognises that as a profession we have not always:

  • Acknowledged and respected the skills, knowledges and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Sought to listen carefully and to truly understand the world views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Worked collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and imposed our presumed expertise.
  • Utilised diagnostic frameworks that honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews.
  • Utilised assessment methodologies and tools that reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ways of communicating.
  • Conducted research that has benefitted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Developed and implemented services that have promoted the importance of culture or advocated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of communicating.
  • Spoken up when we have seen policies that negatively impact on the communication, swallowing, social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We recognise the negative impacts of these actions and lack of action. We acknowledge that the impacts include inappropriate labelling and deficit-based narratives, services that exclude or are not safe and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, research done to rather than with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and research that does not translate to better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We apologise for this harm and for the ongoing impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Going forward we commit to:

  • Recognising, understanding and redressing all forms of racism in our services and profession.
  • Working with clients and communities to develop services that are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Recognising, valuing and embedding the skills, knowledges and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our work.
  • Building collaborative professional partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals and organisations.
  • Building culturally safe learning and work environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and professionals.
  • Listening carefully to community needs, wants and ambitions when planning and conducting research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, empowering community members as leaders of and partners in research.
  • Ensuring that research is translated and owned by community, to support local decision making.
  • Advocating for holistic services that will address the social and cultural determinants of health and help to close the gap between the educational and health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those of non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Advocating for the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with communication and swallowing disorders, recognising the value and importance of the languages spoken in their homes and communities,
  • Ensuring that speech pathology methodologies, tools and services adhere to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews.
  • Supporting the development of an Association that provides a culturally safe place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speech pathology membership..

Through and with these actions we will work towards growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speech pathologists in speech pathology services and leadership positions within the profession and the Association.

We look forward to contributing to a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have timely access to culturally safe and responsive speech pathology services, led and implemented by communities, and with equitable health, wellbeing and educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.