Learning to provide a responsive and respectful mental health service to remote communities in Central Australia

Mr Peter Ashley1

1Royal Flying Doctor Service, Alice Springs, Australia


This presentation discusses specific issues in providing a diverse, relationship based, and collective approach to the delivery of mental health services to remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. The mental health service specific to the Royal Flying Doctor Service based in Alice Springs incorporates a Western diagnostic medical model of mental health that works by invitation from communities and in conjunction with communities to further assist in developing a diverse approach in the understanding and contextualization of mental health issues within Aboriginal communities visited by The Royal Flying Doctor Service that are remote and where health service delivery is limited. The inclusion of Community Elders, Aboriginal Health Workers, and community services is seen as integral to the development of a diverse mental health care approach that works to demystify mental health and develop stronger community delivery and seen to be most effective when there is the development of strong relationships of all groups and individuals from the community wanting to further identify, understand, and contextualise mental health issues experienced by a community. The development of a mental health team that is diverse in experience and knowledge of Aboriginal Mental health and willing to explore avenues of treatment that are authentic and respectful to Aboriginal communities and practice is essential. It is with this approach there has been a development of inclusive working relationships that has motivated the acceptance for a diverse understanding of contributing factors to mental health issues and pathways of responding with an intent to further develop an empowered voice of Aboriginal communities and individuals.


Peter Ashley is a Psychologist who has worked in Mental Health, Sexual Health, and Drug and Alcohol services. He has worked in rural and remote areas of Northern Australia and also in an urbanised setting where there has been significant cultural diversity and complexity in providing a health service appropriate to the individual and communities.

Peter is currently the Senior Mental Health clinician and Team Leader for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Team based in Alice Springs which travel and live within communities to  provide a mental service that is authentic and adaptive to expressed community needs.