Joshua – Respect for culture and public mental health services

Complaint story about respect for Aboriginal culture in a Victorian public mental health service.

Please note: this complaint story includes an instance of self-injury, and the trauma impacts of colonisation.

What Joshua told us

Joshua, an Aboriginal man, contacted the MHCC. He was concerned that he could not access culturally appropriate services at his local community mental health service. Joshua has a history of significant trauma and attempts at self-harm. He had asked the staff for a male Aboriginal worker to be involved in his ongoing treatment and care as he didn’t feel comfortable working with a female or non-Aboriginal worker. The service manager, however, had told him that it was not currently possible to meet his request. Joshua told us he felt his needs were not understood or respected by the service staff.

Joshua’s rights

Victoria’s Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles protect the rights of people who are receiving mental health treatment from a public mental health service. The principles most relevant to Joshua’s situation are:

g) People receiving mental health services should have their individual needs (whether as to culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion, gender, sexuality or other matters) recognised and responded to.

h) Aboriginal people receiving mental health services should have their distinct culture and identity recognised and responded to.

What we did

After talking with Joshua, we asked the service to consider other ways to meet Joshua’s individual needs. Following the discussion, the service was able to find a male Aboriginal worker in a neighbouring Aboriginal support service who Joshua felt comfortable with. We also provided advice to the service on the need for their approaches to be culturally safe and responsive.


Joshua was pleased that through making a complaint to the MHCC he had been able to have his individual needs and distinct culture and identity recognised and responded to.

Please note: names and some details in this complaint story have been omitted to protect the identity of those involved.

Reviewed 21 April 2021

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC)

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