“AHCWA has major concerns with the lack of culturally secure mental health support services for Aboriginal people and communities, experiencing crisis and trauma on a daily basis”
Chair of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA), Vicki O’Donnell expresses great concern over inadequate access to mental health support services across WA, and the unacceptable suicide and self-harm rates within Aboriginal communities. See Press release Part 1 below
“It’s the highest rate of suicide in the State this calendar year,”
Speaking at a press conference in Geraldton last week , Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service board chair and former NACCHO Deputy Chair Sandy Davies said the two suicides were among seven deaths this year, which included children as young as 12. Watch Press Conference Part 2 Below
Picture Above : National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project co-ordinator Gerry Georgatos, director Megan Krakouer, National Justice Project principal solicitor George Newhouse, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service board chair Sandy Davies and Aboriginal Legal Service of WA chief executive Dennis Eggington at ;last weeks press conference in Geraldton. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian
AHCWA is the peak body for its 23 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across WA.
This crisis has tragically been highlighted again, with the recent suicides in the Midwest and Gascoyne regions, and the fatal shooting of an Aboriginal Mother in Geraldton who had a history of mental health, alcohol and other drug issues.
Aboriginal people continue to experience systemic racism within the Mental Health and Justice systems, resulting in poor health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people, their families and communities across WA.
AHCWA provides full support to the Aboriginal Elders and Leaders who gathered in Geraldton to discuss the suicide crisis in the community and are calling for urgent reform of the Mental Health system.
AHCWA calls upon the Government to undertake the following as a matter of urgency:
- Significant reform of the Mental Health Sector through direct engagement with Aboriginal communities and organisations.
- Commitment of significant funding for Suicide Prevention for Aboriginal people across WA.
- Significant investment for the delivery of culturally secure Social and Emotional Well Being services for Aboriginal people and their communities across WA.
- Greatly improve the awareness and understanding of suicidal behaviour, mental health, alcohol and drug issues through appropriate training of Police and others who work within the justice system.
- Review of existing sentencing laws to prevent the further breakdown of families and communities.
- Review of the policies and procedures around the use of lethal force by Police Officers.
Part 2 Leaders in Aboriginal health and legal services have warned of a suicide crisis which they say has included two Indigenous deaths in the Mid West and Gascoyne in the past six days.
Speaking at a press conference in Geraldton Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service board chair Sandy Davies said the two suicides were among seven deaths this year, which included children as young as 12.
“It’s the highest rate of suicide in the State this calendar year,” he said.
Calls for the State Government to make mental health reforms were top of the agenda at the conference, which comes after the death last month of Aboriginal woman Joyce Clarke.
Ms Clarke was shot in the stomach by a police officer just days after she left hospital due to a mental health incident.
Her death is under investigation, with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson promising independent oversight from the Corruption and Crime Commission and the State Coroner.
According to Ms Clarke’s family, she had a history of drug use and spent a large part of her life in prison.
National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project director Megan Krakouer said the number of Aboriginals going without access to support services was “beyond a joke”.
“People who don’t know what they’re doing in mental health programs just need to get out of the way,” she said.
“I don’t know what good all these representative bodies are doing if it’s not translating to the ground.”
The conference also called on the Government to ensure police no longer respond to mental health incidents, leaving qualified professionals to do so instead.
Speakers insisted on the repeal of mandatory sentencing laws so an offender’s individual circumstances could be taken into account.
It was also said police should never use a gun on someone who did not have a gun, and that a lifelong approach to State-delivered care needed to be adopted, from birth to old age.
Other speakers included GRAMS chief executive Deb Woods, National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project co-ordinator Gerry Georgatos, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA chief executive Dennis Eggington and National Justice Project principal solicitor George Newhouse.
At the time of Ms Clarke’s death, WA Police offered their condolences to her family and have promised a thorough investigation.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who has described the incident as tragic, said eight police officers were present in Petchell Street at the time and witnesses had seen Ms Clarke with a knife before the shooting.
Ms Clarke’s death has fast-tracked the roll-out of body cameras for Mid West and Gascoyne police, who were not scheduled to receive them until 2021.