“I think it’s appalling that we have to raise Medicare funds to subsidise services when the need is clearly demonstrated in umpteen coroner’s reports.
There are many gaps in the services that are currently available across Australia.
We welcome Labor policies to move SEWB funding into the federal health department, as well as its proposed multi-disciplinary teams of paediatricians, social workers, psychologists and Aboriginal counsellors.
But I criticize the “piecemeal approach” of the major parties. What governments don’t get is that the overall needs based funding required for Aboriginal community controlled health organisations (ACCHOs) to deliver fully on comprehensive primary healthcare hasn’t been built in to our model of care funding.”
As a result, the sector has had to seek additional funding for services like SEWB, instead of receiving a sufficient level as the base
We call for money to go to ACCHOs instead of mainstream services for Aboriginal healthcare.
We have a much better understanding of the issues [Aboriginal communities] deal with day in and day out. I also believe there should be workers engaged in the communities who are available out of hours, because most people don’t suicide between 9 and 5.”
Pat Turner AM CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, told BuzzFeed News it was unacceptable, given the situation in the Kimberley
“We need those two positions given everything that’s happening in the community. People know them, they trust them, they will work with them. And it takes a long time to build up that trust with Aboriginal people.”
Derby Aboriginal Health Service ( DAHS CEO ) Lynette Henderson-Yates said she is unsure how much longer DAHS will be able to find the $330,000 funding
Recommendation 4.Address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide rates
- Provide $50 million over four years to ACCHOs to address the national crisis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide in vulnerable communities
- Fund new Aboriginal support staff to provide immediate assistance to children and young people at risk of self-harm and improved case management
- Fund regionally based multi-disciplinary teams, comprising paediatricians, child psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners who are culturally safe and respectful, to ensure ready access to professional assistance; and
- Provide accredited training to ACCHOs to upskill in areas of mental health, childhood development, youth services, environment health, health and wellbeing screening and service delivery.
Part 1 This is what it’s actually like to work on the frontline of Australia’s youth suicide Crisis
“Alongside its beauty and isolation, the Kimberley is also known for its suicide rate. Last year, Indigenous health minister Ken Wyatt told the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference: “If [the Kimberley] was a nation, it would have the highest suicide rate in the world.”
About eight years ago, Derby was at the epicentre of this ongoing catastrophe. In 2011 three young people died by suicide in as many weeks. The following year, the Aboriginal community of Mowanjum, 10km out of town, was rocked by the suicides of six people within six months.
Trent Ozies, 27, is a Djugun man from the Broome area who grew up in Derby. Ozies also has Filipino, Chinese and European heritage, as well as a gentle manner and a thoroughly infectious laugh. But he is grave as he recalls this terrible period.
“It was almost as if we went full circle,” he says. “Someone passed. Had their funeral, had the wake, someone passed. Had the funeral, had the wake, someone passed.”
An Aboriginal health service in one of Australia’s worst suicide affected regions faces losing its psychologist and Aboriginal mental health worker, after money for the positions was cut in a state funding restructure last year.
The community controlled Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS), located 220km east of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, delivers social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services in Derby.
The region has long struggled with the issue of Indigenous youth suicide. Coroner Ros Fogliani’s recent report into the deaths of 13 Aboriginal children and young people who died in the Kimberley found that 12 had died by suicide, the tragedies prompted by widespread poverty and intergenerational trauma.
The five person SEWB team in Derby is considered a model for how community mental health outreach should work in remote towns, according to Rob McPhee, the deputy CEO of Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services.
But in a state funding restructure last year, DAHS lost funding for psychologist Maureen Robertson and mental health worker Ash Bin Omar and is now covering the $330,000 per year with money raised through Medicare consultations. SEWB services are generally funded by the Commonwealth.
Omar, who works with young Aboriginal men and boys, is also running a new project aimed at families with a low to medium risk of having their children removed to try and improve the situation and keep families together.
“For us not to have a psychologist and an Aboriginal mental health worker is really crazy,” Henderson-Yates said. “To my mind, there’s no debate about whether you have them or not have them.”
Senator Pat Dodson, who will become Indigenous affairs minister if Labor wins the election on May 18, told BuzzFeed News a Labor government would look to provide Commonwealth funding for two positions in Derby.
Labor has pledged $30 million over three years to support Aboriginal mental health and SEWB services in three high-need regions, including the Kimberley.
“If you don’t have these people being employed through the community health services, it just makes the effort to try and assist young people from taking these extreme measures totally impossible,” Dodson said.
Indigenous health minister Ken Wyatt told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the $19.6 million for suicide prevention pledged by the Coalition “builds on existing funding” provided through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) in the department of prime minister and cabinet.
The sum includes $15 million for the rollout of mental health first aid training in 12 Indigenous communities and for youth, as well as continuing training for frontline workers. Another $4.6 million will go towards community-led programs — designed to complement existing services — in areas such as leadership, sports and culture.
The IAS currently funds about $55 million per year for SEWB, Wyatt said.