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Call for Submissions

Special Issue on “Systemic and Community-Informed Approaches to Climate Justice”


Special Issue Editors:

  • Gina O’Neill (she/her/I0), psychotherapist, supervisor, and trainer; Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu, German, English/Irish descendant.
  • Dr. Gávi Ansara (he/him), hybrid/polycultural psychotherapist, supervisor, and clinical educator. (Currently Acting PACJA Editor).

The special issue editors can be contacted at specialissue@pacja.org.au.


Submission Deadline: 1st December, 2021.



This Special Issue on systemic and community-informed approaches to climate justice welcomes pieces that transcend the limitations of intrapsychic climate change discourse. We invite significant and original submissions that reflect critically on psychotherapy and counselling discourse or grapple with the complexities of integrating systemic and community factors into professional practice and our professional accountability for contributing to collective action. For the first time, to promote wider accessibility, PACJA will be accepting submissions in any combination of written, audio, visual, or video format. Video abstracts for all written submissions are encouraged. 


We are particularly interested in submissions from people with lived experiences that are under-represented in peer-reviewed journals, including but not limited to: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, South Sea Islander communities, Māori, Pasifika, and Indigenous/First Peoples communities 
  • people from geographically African, Asian, Caribbean, and South American contexts 
  • people from linguistic backgrounds that are underrepresented in English journals 
  • people from asylum-seeker, refugee, or migrant backgrounds or contexts 
  • people with lived experience of poverty, homelessness, and lack to sanitation, toilets, safe drinking water, and electricity 
  • especially people with disability labels and/or impairments 


Important Background Information for Prospective Contributors:

The Earth is in climate crisis, and the time for urgent collective action is now. In 2019, according to global data obtained by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, 2.2 billion people around the world did not have safe drinking water, 4.2 billion people did not have safely managed sanitation services for toileting, and 3 billion lacked basic handwashing facilities. Natural disasters and extreme weather events resulting from human-induced climate change have only exacerbated unequal access to the food, sanitation, water, and other basic resources needed to sustain human life. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recognised that the climate crisis does not affect everyone equally; human-induced climate change continues to have a disproportionate impact on people in communities already struggling with inadequate access to basic resources. According to the UN OCHA, in communities across the Earth, from Somalia to Nepal, from the Marshall Islands to Chad, people are already losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives to the devastating consequences of the human-induced climate crisis.


The AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis Report was published in August 2021 by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, is the world’s most current and rigorous scientific assessment of the physical basis of climate change. The AR6 Report found human-induced climate changes occurring globally in every region, noting that “the scale of recent changes across the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years”, and that the changes that have already occurred are “irreversible for centuries to millennia.” Emerging research increasingly links these human-induced climate changes to extreme heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, tropical cyclones, and other existential threats. The report found that, to prevent even more severe catastrophic consequences, sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human behaviour such as the burning of fossil fuels must occur immediately. The authors cautioned that “global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the middle of the century”, and that, “unless we make sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades, global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, after which climate consequences will be even more severe.” The AR6 Report explicitly acknowledged that climate change exacerbates poverty, that an effective global response to climate change requires efforts to eradicate poverty, and that systemic factors beyond the scope of individual control affect human capacity to cope with climate change.


Despite decades of public warnings issued by Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and Indigenous leaders around the world and by climate scientists, climate change has only recently become a popular topic in psychotherapy and counselling. In contrast to the systemic and community-informed approach advanced by Indigenous community leaders and climate scientists, the emerging psychotherapy and counselling discourse on climate change has typically neglected systemic and community concerns, focusing almost exclusively on intrapsychic solutions that invoke concepts such as “hope”, “resilience”, and “self-care”. Unfortunately, these concepts have often been explored in ways that lack understanding about the acute risks and access barriers faced by people subjected to systemic racism, colonisation and its continuing structures, and economic disadvantage. Concepts such as hope, resilience, and self-care are often advocated by professionals with little to no awareness of the practical realities faced by people subjected to these kinds of basic structural and resource inequities. This empathy gap renders common psychotherapeutic applications of these concepts offensive or inaccessible to the communities most affected by climate crisis.


The casual white supremacy of these intrapsychic concepts is evident when listening to voices from racialised populations whose concerns are typically missing from this discourse. For example, as cofounder of the Movement for Black Lives (commonly known as Black Lives Matter) Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac explained in a 2013 Facebook post, hope is not about cultivating individual attitudes, but needs to be grounded in “collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams” (emphasis added). As feminist and environmentalist Rebecca Solnit noted, hope is not “the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine” when “the evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and destruction”, but instead about perspectives “that invite or demand that we act” (emphasis added). In this climate crisis, any concept of hope that does not prioritise collective over individual solutions and action for change over intrapsychic optimism in response to a profoundly unequal world is likely to be hazardous to our health. Despite these concerns, such dissenting voices remain either absent or tokenised in psychotherapy and counselling discourse at large.


Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Ethnocentric approaches that impose an individualistic mentality and claims that changes in attitude or behaviour can “fix” climate anxiety make it difficult for practitioners to validate people’s legitimate concerns or respond with cultural humility. In contrast to the exclusionary discourse of intrapsychic and individualistic climate anxiety, the climate justice approach highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on historically marginalised communities, the causal relationship between the theft and colonisation of Indigenous land and climate change, and the ongoing inequities that restrict some people’s access to the basic resources and social connections that can transform concepts of hope and resilience from instruments of erasure to tools of validation and healing. The climate justice approach acknowledges the need for collective action that is informed by direct lived experience of resource inequity.


Professor and Indigenous trauma healing expert Judy Atkinson has said that the start to healing is deep listening and that it comes with a responsibility to act. This collective responsibility to take the actions that will help all of us to heal from the trauma that is—and continues to be—embedded in not only the people, but also in the land of Australia for future generations of children. This collective duty stirs psychotherapists, counsellors, and Aboriginal healing practitioners to envision how we might take on the challenge of this collective transformation. Self-described Black lesbian mother, warrior, and poet Audre Lorde, who had lived experience of cancer and disability, also stressed the collective duty for action. Lorde famously explained in 1988 that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” (Lorde, 2017, p. 130). This understanding of self-care as grounded in collective political action is missing from psychotherapy and counselling discourse, which often misappropriates “self-care” and strips this concept of its collective liberatory potential. In contrast, a climate justice approach restores Lorde’s original understanding of self-care within the context of collective action—as a matter far beyond solely intrapsychic capacity and one with profound societal implications.


In addition to contributing to the evidence base for practitioners, scientific journals like PACJA can play a vital role in elevating marginalised voices and promoting publications with societal relevance to social justice aims such as climate justice.


Submission guidelines:

Information for authors and submission guidelines can be accessed on the PACJA website. When submitting an article via PACJA’s online submission portal, authors should indicate that the article is intended for the special issue on “Systemic and community-informed approaches to climate justice”. If potential authors would like to discuss their ideas, or have any questions about the special issue, they are encouraged to contact the editors at specialissue@pacja.org.au.


Successful submissions will not only address topics, themes, and content relevant to climate justice, but will also demonstrate anti-oppressive research methods and/or writing practices, such as:

  • avoiding toxic positivity by demonstrating critical thinking about how concepts such as “hope”, “resilience”, and “self-care” have been weaponised to blame marginalised people for their own oppression and how relative societal privilege can determine whether these concepts are experienced as beneficial or harmful
  • including a brief Positioning Statement at the beginning of your piece that describes your societal position, relevant lived experience (if applicable), axes of societal privilege, and point(s) of entry into your chosen topic
  • recognition that concepts like “hope”, “resilience”, and “self-care” are not ideologically “neutral” or value-free
  • addressing systemic factors such as land theft, access to sanitation and drinking water, human-accelerated soil erosion and demineralisation, and racial profiling, when writing about climate anxiety or related concepts
  • considering and citing sources from people and populations with lived experience (“nothing about us, without us, is for us”)
  • using the language that people and communities use about themselves, without imposing a dominant frame of reference or medicalised language not preferred by the people and communities themselves (i.e., emic, not etic)
  • ensuring that research not only has institutional ethics approval, but also a community reference group, including community oversight from people with lived experience and 
  • including the people and populations being written about in the development of research priorities and/or research questions, and/or modifying priorities and questions based on feedback from such people and populations.


Similarly, the peer review and editorial processes will demonstrate anti-oppressive methods, including making sure each paper has at least one peer reviewer from the population about whom the paper has been written and/or who is directly affected by the subject matter.  


About PACJA:

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia (PACJA) is an international, peer-reviewed, and open access scholarly journal that aims to make original and significant contributions to evidence-informed theory, policy, and practice for psychotherapy, counselling, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices. Established by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) in 2012, PACJA is committed to promoting responsible research that meets international standards in publication ethics and adhering to the principles of accountability, diversity, human rights, cultural safety, cultural humility, and anti-oppressive practice. Learn more.

Submissions from practitioners, researchers, community activists, advanced students, and educators—including first-time authors and people with direct lived experience of their submission topic—are warmly encouraged. Submissions are invited in any combination of written, audio, and video format to expand accessibility, cultural diversity, and reflect the creativity and diversity of current and emerging psychotherapy, counselling, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices. This might include transcripts of text exchanges, compilations of blog posts, and reviews of relevant films. Authors considering such submissions are invited to contact the editors to discuss their ideas. The process is intended to provide supportive mentoring and guidance for aspiring authors seeking to contribute to the exchange of research in psychotherapy, counselling, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices.



Lorde, A. (2017). A burst of light: And other essays. Dover Publications.


All other references appear as hyperlinks in the content above.