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Psychs sorry over Stolen silence

AAP logoAAP 15/09/2016 Helen Velissaris

Australia's first Aboriginal psychologist has welcomed a formal apology from Australian psychologist for their silence on the Stolen Generation and for contributing to the mistreatment of indigenous people.

Professor Pat Dudgeon was overcome with emotion during the Australian Psychological Society's apology, delivered during their congress in Melbourne on Thursday.

On behalf of their 20,000 members, the APS apologised for dismissing the importance of culture in the treatment of the community and not speaking up about the harms of the forced removal of children that resulted in the Stolen Generation.

"It went into a place of quite deep and profound ownership," Professor Dudgeon told AAP.

The apology also pointed the finger at psychologists who conducted research that furthered their careers rather than improving the lives of indigenous Australians.

Professor Dudgeon took aim at many of the culturally inappropriate tests psychologists use to make a diagnosis or assessment.

In many cases, they had been developed in the US for a Western experience.

Something like a simple IQ test was so subjective it unfairly penalised culturally diverse people, she said.

"There's a point where people's diversity is such that it's actually meaningless and you don't know what the hell you're measuring," she said.

"We know that people from non-Western Anglo-Saxon backgrounds perform badly on those tests anyway."

Professor Dudgeon said many indigenous people avoid seeking mental help because they feel "they're not welcome there".

She wants psychologists and mental health practitioners to become more culturally competent, and more investment in culturally appropriate mental health materials.

Professor Dudgeon became Australia's first Aboriginal psychologist after completing her postgraduate training in 1987, and going on to get her PhD in 2008. She is a member of the executive board of the Australian Indigenous Psychologist's Association.

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