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2018 APS Congress

The 2018 APS Congress will be held in Sydney from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 September 2018

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The APS Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2016 the APS made a formal Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, acknowledging psychology’s role in contributing to the erosion of culture and to their mistreatment.

Our Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was announced at the 2016 APS Congress, following the keynote speech by Australia’s first Indigenous psychologist, Professor Pat Dudgeon. The reading of the Apology by Professor Tim Carey, who was central to its development, was a profoundly emotional moment. There was a standing ovation by over 1500 delegates after the apology had been read.

Read the Apology

Background to the Apology

The APS has a longstanding commitment to working in culturally responsive and safe ways with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and colleagues. In 1973, the Working Party on Aboriginal Issues was established and APS members become involved in research via the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. It is only since the 1990s that progress was slowly made in translating our commitment into actual steps toward changing psychology in Australia and engaging in reconciliation.

Learn more about our reconciliation journey and the important steps the APS has taken in the last 25 years.

How did the Apology evolve?

The APS Apology evolved out of discussions between Professor Tim Carey and Professor of Psychiatry Alan Rosen AO (University of Wollongong; University of Sydney; University of Newcastle) in Alice Springs, in 2011. After this meeting and lengthy correspondence between the two, Alan Rosen continued to work on the idea and developed an apology and a supporting paper.

In October 2014, Alan Rosen emailed Tim Carey, Pat Dudgeon, significant psychiatrists in the area such as Helen Milroy, Ernest Hunter, Rob Parker, and Aboriginal mental health professional, Michael Wright and sought feedback on the latest draft of the paper. Tim Carey offered to take this draft to the APS Board for comment. This was followed by further correspondence regarding whether the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) and the APS would endorse the apology.

The apology was discussed at an APS Board meeting in October 2015. The Board gave in principle support and decided to refer the apology to the Indigenous Psychology Advisory Group to the APS Board (IPAG). IPAG discussed and supported the notion of an apology at its first meeting in November 2015. At the next IPAG meeting, in August 2016, the group decided to develop an apology specific to psychology, rather than endorse Alan Rosen’s apology, in order to acknowledge that the work of psychologists goes well beyond the mental health context.

The final version of the APS Apology was a collaborative effort. A small IPAG working group led by Tim Carey (Tanja Hirvonen and Peter Smith representing Aboriginal psychologists and AIPA, Louise Roufeil and Sabine Hammond representing APS Executive Management) refined Tim Carey’s initial draft, then asked for feedback from IPAG members.

Where to next – steps following the Apology?

Making the Apology was a significant symbolic milestone in our active engagement and participation in a changed and inclusive emerging Australian identity and nationhood. We are aware that we will not be judged by the actual Apology but how it will change our work as psychologists going forward.

Maintaining momentum following the Apology and making steps to change our work practices and how we engage as psychologists with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, assuring that our awareness translates into attitudes and actions that are characterised by cultural responsiveness and safety, will remain a challenge. With the guidance of IPAG, we are revising and renewing the Reconciliation Action Plan and the APS continues to identify ways to ensure that the APS Apology will translate into positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people