“One in three deaths across the country among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 35 is a suicide,
The rates of suicide for First Australians is twice that of other Australians.
“The Critical Response Project helps to coordinate first-response services and ensure that essential support is provided to individuals, families and local communities dealing with suicide.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion
The Federal Government has pledged $1 million to set up a “critical response” project to tackle Indigenous suicide in Western Australia, as advocates warn the state has one of the worst rates across the nation.
The project will aim to better coordinate suicide services and deliver them in culturally appropriate ways, according to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion
An on-call service will allow Indigenous West Australians to contact the critical response team when they are affected by suicide or traumatic events.
Senator Scullion said the initiative was being trialled in Western Australia because it had the greatest need, with one in four Indigenous suicides across Australia taking place in the state.
Critical response advocates Gerry Georgatos and Adele Cox visited Western Australia’s Goldfields in December following a spate of suicides in the region.
Mr Georgatos said currently there was nothing in place to coordinate responses from different support providers.
“Sometimes one provider doesn’t know what another provider is doing,” he said.
“We need to have this so that people don’t assume that someone is being responded to, when in fact they are not being responded to.
“What we want to see out of this is a plan of coordination that’s actually shared among all the services, so that no one slips through the system.”
Indigenous suicide an ‘ongoing tragedy’
Ms Cox said rates of suicide in WA had not improved.
“We know that in some regions the likely increase of suicides rates is [going] up, as opposed to coming down,” she said.
“Over the last 15 years what we have seen is at least a different sort of commitment from the State Government in terms of how they respond to suicide.
We have to restore hope. And to restore hope, we have to actually create opportunity for people in these communities.Advocate Gerry Georgatos
“Recently we have seen this current State Government at least provide some investments into suicide prevention which was much needed.”
Senator Scullion said suicide was an “ongoing tragedy”.
“One in three deaths across the country among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 35 is a suicide,” he said.
“The rates of suicide for First Australians is twice that of other Australians.
“The Critical Response Project helps to coordinate first-response services and ensure that essential support is provided to individuals, families and local communities dealing with suicide.
“It will also develop and trial new models of care to build resilience in communities as well as the roll-out of mental health first-aid training.”
Economic, racial inequalities ‘drain communities of hope’
Mr Georgatos said the Critical Response Project was a step in the right direction, but more still needed to be done.
“The high self-harm rates, the self-destructive behaviour, the high arrest rates, the high jail rates, the suicides rates, they will continue as a constant narrative,” he said.
“What we’re doing is a systemic approach to try and reduce [suicides] to the best of our ability.
“But to be honest, what needs to be done is that racialised and economic inequalities, the disparity that all of us know exits in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, [must be] addressed.
“As long as these racialised and economic inequalities exist, suicides will continue.
“The underlying factor is actually a sense of hopelessness. We have to restore hope. And to restore hope, we have to actually create opportunity for people in these communities.”
The initiative will be coordinated by the University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies.
The Government will consider further funding and expanding the project after the trial has finished in January 2017.
In Western Australia, suicide was the third-most common cause of death in Aboriginal people in 2013, the latest data available.
In the non-Indigenous population, it was the ninth-most common cause that year.