Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing

Milroy, H., Derry, K., Kashyap, S., Platell, M., Alexi, J., Chang, E., & Dudgeon, P. (2022) Indigenous Australian Understandings of Holistic Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing. In E. Reiger, R. Costanza, I. Kubiszewski, & P Dugdale (Eds) Toward an Integrated Science of WellbeingOxford University Press.


Through colonisation in Australia, Western paradigms of health and mental health have dominated the discourse on mental health and excluded Indigenous knowledges, which consider wellbeing from a more holistic perspective. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (the Indigenous peoples of Australia) understand health through the ocial and Emotional WellBeing model (SEWB), which considers the body and mind, as well as spiritual, cultural, kinship, community and physical dimensions, as well as the impact of historical, political, social, and cultural determinants on wellbeing. An inclusive science of wellbeing requires Western and Indigenous knowledges to be valued alongside each other, accepting their differences. In this chapter we will begin by outlining the path from colonisation toward the recognition of Indigenous knowledges, and we will describe the SEWB model and interventions developed using this model. Finally, we will provide an example of how the SEWB model can be operationalised for health and mental health settings, through the ‘Dance of Life’ framework, which uses the culturally relevant medium of art to facilitate discussion of holistic wellbeing.