Mental health charity ‘racist’ article with aboriginal stock images removed


A mental health charity quietly deleted a “racist” post that used stock images of an Indigenous man holding a spear.

A mental health charity was criticized for racist portrayal of Indigenous peoples in a social media post it attempted to use to raise awareness of mental health issues that disproportionately affect Indigenous and Islanders. Torres Strait.

The message contained two statistics: Aboriginals are almost twice as likely to kill themselves and almost three times as likely to be in psychological distress than non-Aboriginals.

It seems the foundation may have added to this distress though.

“If I’m not carrying my spear, does this statistic still apply to me?” Ngarabal man Anton Schirripa wrote on Twitter with a screenshot of the post showing the two stats alongside a cartoon of a man in tribal paint holding a stick.

“It’s not even a well-drawn stereotype,” he added in a follow-up tweet, noting that the clothing is more Egyptian than native.

“Imagine not realizing how harmful this kind of stereotype can be to Indigenous people, especially young Indigenous men, and then using it in a campaign on mental health? These racist representations directly contribute to mental illness, ”he said, calling on the association to“ do better ”.

The charity was quick to apologize publicly for its mistake, calling the post “inappropriate.”

“We fully understand the ramifications of publishing this inappropriate stereotype,” said a statement.

“Such stereotypes are totally anathema to the passionate work in the field of multicultural tolerance which we defend at the heart of the ethics of our organization.

“We would like to sincerely apologize to all the Indigenous communities and individuals whom we have offended and misrepresented in our message.

“We would like to thank you for bringing this error to our attention and” denouncing “it and making it clear how damaging such insensitive representations can be.

“We certainly didn’t want deliberate bad intentions and pride ourselves on standing up for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

“Unfortunately, this time we fell far short of our guiding principles, our goals and our philosophy. It hurt us deeply. “

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Journalist Miguel D’Souza intervened to point out that the poorly drawn “stereotype” was not necessarily the foundation’s fault, since it was not she who drew it.

“This is a stock image,” he said, pointing to a website selling a royalty-free vector of “icons of nature and tourism culture in Australia” which also includes vectors of aboriginal drums, boomerangs and Uluru.

The white man depicted in the collection of images is given a surfboard instead of a stick.

The image was one of many created by the Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) in the run-up to National Mental Health Month.

MHFA Vice President Jim Goodin told he had not seen the post and would not approve of it, calling it an “honest mistake”, possibly made by younger workers.

“Sometimes these things go unnoticed when you have a number of employees working, especially younger employees who aren’t necessarily so aware of the sensitivity. “

He acknowledged that it was the organization as a whole that was responsible.

“We have to accept responsibility for that, these are definitely stereotypes of indigenous peoples as spear bearers with painted bodies and loincloths, which is probably not a good image,” Goodin said.

“We would certainly apologize for that if anyone was offended by it, and obviously someone was… I would say it’s an honest mistake and sometimes those unfortunate mistakes creep in.”

A Twitter account representing the foundation did not respond to Mr Schirripa’s social media post, but he deleted his own, not before the receipts were taken.

The MHFA is a mid-sized charity registered with the Australian Charities and Nonprofit Commission (ACNC).

Last year, he had an income of $ 683,614, more than two-thirds of which came from government grants.

Home Secretary Peter Dutton’s wife Kirilly is one of the 13 members of the board, which also includes leading Australians in psychology, health, education and the executive class.

None of them are indigenous, although indigenous people are disproportionately affected by mental health issues, as the MHFA has sought to point out.

“Currently, we don’t have any aboriginal board members, we have a very strong multicultural ambassador program, and we have multicultural ambassadors from aboriginal communities and workers from aboriginal communities,” said Mr. Goodin.

“It’s something that we definitely aim to increase representation, it’s just something that has been difficult for us to do for one reason or another, we haven’t had the kind of penetration into these communities that we have. would love to have it quite frankly but we are working on it.

He said the MHFA had recently employed a man from Queensland of indigenous descent and was “all the time” looking to make more contacts.

“The Foundation’s goals are to educate the community to promote resilience, positive mental health and well-being; to promote awareness of mental illness and de-stigmatize mental health issues, ”MHFA said on its ACNC page.

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