NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth #SuicidePrevention @NMHC Communique : @GregHuntMP roundtable meeting to review investment to date in mental health and suicide prevention : #TimeToFixMentalHealth #TomCalma @AUMentalHealth @FrankGQuinlan @PatMcGorry @amapresident @headspace_aus

” Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, hosted a Government-led roundtable this week to review investment to date in mental health and suicide prevention, to hear from the sector on current gaps and priorities, to understand what is and is not working, and to advise on the upcoming national forum on youth mental health and suicide prevention.

Minister Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are committed to working towards zero-suicide for all Australians, including our youth.

From the National Mental Health Commission 6 June 

( The Indigenous ) Suicide rates are an appalling national tragedy that is not only depriving too many of our young people of a full life, but is wreaking havoc among our families and communities.

As anyone who has experienced a friend or family member committing suicide will know, the effects are widespread and devastating and healing can be elusive for those left behind.

It is time that we draw a line under this tragic situation that is impacting so significantly on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities  “

Noting Professor Tom Calma AO was a participant in the meeting via telephone link and opened the meeting with a discussion on Indigenous suicide. 

See this quote and 140 Plus Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO in last 7 Years 

Those in attendance welcomed the Government’s commitment, with a number noting that suicide prevention needs to be a priority across all age groups, especially those groups with the highest suicide rates.

The conversation covered a range of key issues, challenges and opportunities for reform and action. Particular discussion points included:

  • Social determinants of mental health: there is a fundamental need to focus on the social determinants of mental health for all Australians, noting and emphasising the range of factors that contribute to distress in young Australians. This is an important factor for all young people and communities, with particular reference to the factors impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth.
  • The impact of trauma and disadvantage: conversation centred on the impacts of trauma and disadvantage and the importance of supporting, for example, young people in out-of-home care, those living in poverty and individuals who are in the justice system.
  • Support for children and families: in order to improve the lives of young Australians, there is a need to better support children and families in the early years. This includes support for neurodevelopmental disorders. In the same way headspace has been developed for young people, there was a suggestion that mental health services focused on children and families could show real benefits.  There is strong support for a focus on prevention
  • Support for Schools: a continued need was highlighted around the role of, and support for, schools, including primary schools and early learning centres. Schools are a critical component of a ‘whole of community’ approach in building supportive environments for children and young people.   It was suggested that for families who may not seek services but who were in need a way of ‘connecting’ may be through digital tools, to identify and support children and parents in those families.
  • Impact on youth: young people can be seriously impacted and influenced by the suicide death of other young people who are their friends, peers, family members or celebrities. More timely and sophisticated data and comprehensive local responses are needed to assist in the reduction of risk for further lives being lost following a suicide.
  • Data: The importance of being able to collect, analyse and provide accurate data was highlighted.  This data is significant across mental health services and particularly for suicide prevention, treatment and support services.
  • Service reform: there is a need for service reform to better respond to people with mental health concerns that are too complex to be managed by a GP at a primary health care level but not so acute as to require specialist tertiary mental health services. While there are some good programs and services to build upon, there is a lack of equity across all regions and access remains a key issue for those requiring psychological and other services. We also need to integrate mental health services with drug and alcohol services.
  • Workforce development: there is an urgent need to focus on training and supporting the diverse professionals working with those at risk of or with mental health issues – health and allied health staff, drug and alcohol workers, school counsellors, psychologists, peer workers and many others. The role of peer workers was recognised as being a critical one and this must be included in all workforce development strategies and initiatives.
  • Peer and carer support: many families and peers supporting those who are in suicidal distress and/or living with challenging mental health and drug and alcohol concerns needed immediate and quality support themselves as they are also at risk for mental ill-health. Families and friends are the largest non-clinical workforce providing care and support for Australians and there is an immediate need to provide better supports for them.
  • Regional and national leadership: while attendees were supportive of regional planning and action, it was suggested that stronger guidance at a national level was needed in order to ensure equity and quality of service responses across the country, with a recognition of the importance of the role of Primary Health Networks.  Further work is needed to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of all governments were clarified, together with accountability. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, and particularly the Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan, are key drivers for clearer accountability and integrated and coordinated responses.
  • Funding models: there was discussion on how best to fund services across the range of needs, including the current review of Medicare and the role of private health insurance.

A collective agreement and strong commitment was reached that a collaborative approach is vital to achieving improved mental health outcomes for all Australians, including children and youth.

There is significant support for a 2030 Vision for mental health and suicide prevention, to be led by the Commission and to ensure that the systematic changes required to best service the community can be identified, prioritised and achieved. This Vision would be look beyond the current plans and strategies.

Attendees acknowledged the commitment to mental health and quality program responses in recent years, together with the increased funding in the 2019/20 federal budget for expanded youth and adult mental health services in the community, together with initiatives to strengthen the collection of critical data around suicide and mentally healthy workplaces.  They also noted the current enquiries being undertaken by the Productivity Commission and the Victorian Royal Commission.  However, there needs to be an increased focus on longer term systems reform.  The Commission has been tasked with taking a leading role in this and will work closely with the sector to develop a reform pathway.

Participants embraced the importance of hope, recognising not only the significant investment to date but that youth mental health services in Australia have been copied by other nations.  There is strong support for improvements in mental health and suicide prevention across all levels of government and community.

As outlined by the Minister for Health, this was an opportunity to review the current status and continue this important discussion.  It is one of many conversations that will continue with the sector at organisational, group and individual levels.

The Commission will provide updates in sector engagement and discussions as they occur.

Lucy Brogden

Chair, National Mental Health Commission

Christine Morgan

CEO, National Mental Health Commission


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SuicidePrevention : WA Government releases preliminary response to Aboriginal youth suicide reports and  accepts all 86 recommendations : Download report HERE

It is beyond distressing to see report after report about young Aboriginal people who see their lives as so bleak that they see no other option but to take their own lives.

The Statement of Intent underscores the Government will co-design services with Aboriginal people.

We are committed to be a Government that listens to and works with Aboriginal people to make a real difference in this area.

We are also determined to working with the Commonwealth Government and local groups in order to bring about a truly co-operative and collaborative approach to addressing this problem.”

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt

“Young Aboriginal people continue to take their own lives at an unfathomable rate. I extend my deepest sympathies to those families and communities that have been heartbroken by these tragic events.

The issues are complex and it is clear that we need to develop a comprehensive reform agenda that is informed by the community, designed by the community and driven by the community.

The Statement of Intent makes it clear that our Government is absolutely committed to addressing the recommendations of the Coroner’s Inquest and the Message Stick report, to deliver real, long-term positive change for Aboriginal people.

The McGowan Government is determined to work across community and governments to ensure that this does not become another report that collects dust.”

Deputy Premier Roger Cook

  • McGowan Government releases preliminary response to the Coroner’s Inquest into Aboriginal youth suicide in the Kimberley and the Message Stick Inquiry
  • McGowan Government accepts all 86 recommendations, combined in both reports
  • Statement of Intent outlines Government’s commitment to work with Aboriginal people to tackle the issues that contribute to Aboriginal youth suicide
  • A reform agenda will be developed in partnership with local Aboriginal people to address the recommendations
  • Following further consultation with Aboriginal communities, full response expected by end of the year

The McGowan Government today released its preliminary response to the State Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of 13 children and young people in the Kimberley and the 2016 Message Stick Inquiry into Aboriginal youth suicide in remote areas.


Download Here Statement-of-Intent-Aboriginal-youth-suicide

The Statement of Intent outlines the McGowan Government’s unwavering commitment to a partnership approach to address the recommendations from the Coroner’s Inquest and Message Stick Inquiry.

Of the combined 86 recommendations included in both reports, the Government has fully accepted 22, accepted 33 in principle, has already implemented or started implementing 16 and is still considering the feasibility or implications of a further 11. Four of the Message Stick recommendations have been superseded by subsequent events.

The McGowan Government will be working with Aboriginal people to develop a whole-ofgovernment reform agenda to address the recommendations, and a comprehensive response to the reports is expected by the end of the year.

The Government will co-design place-based initiatives in partnership with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, which will positively impact the livelihood of young Aboriginal people.

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 o 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

Read all previous 140 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention Articles HERE

The McGowan Government is committed to addressing Aboriginal youth suicide, and a number of initiatives are included in this year’s State Budget that support Aboriginal youth wellbeing:

  • $6.5 million for the Aboriginal Community Connectors program to improve community safety and reduce community consequences of alcohol and other drugs and related ‘at risk’ behaviours;
  • Diversionary programs in the Kimberley, including the Kununurra PCYC ($2 million) and the West Kimberley Youth and Resilience Hub ($1.3 million);
  • $20.1 million for the North West Drug and Alcohol Support Program to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs in the Kimberley, Pilbara, and Mid-West;
  • Continued support for the work of the Mental Health Commission in reducing suicide risk in Western Australia via the Suicide Prevention: 2020 strategy ($8.1 million); and
  • A Kimberley Juvenile Justice Strategy ($900,000) to develop place-based prevention and diversion initiatives for young people across the Kimberley.

The Statement of Intent, which includes the Government’s preliminary response to the Coroner’s Inquest and Message Stick Inquiry, can be downloaded from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s website.

Useful Links

2018 Message Stick Response

State Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of 13 children and young person in the Kimberley Region

The former Health and Education Standing Committee 2016 report, Learnings from the message stick: the report of the inquiry into Aboriginal youth suicide in remote areas.

Contact Us

If you wish to make contact with regard to the Western Australian Government’s response to the Statement of Intent, please do so via the details below:

Department of the Premier and Cabinet
Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
West Perth
Western Australia 6005


If you would like a response, please include your preferred contact details.



NACCHO #ATSISPEP Aboriginal Health Suicide Prevention : Our kids have no hope: suicide victim’s mother tells PM


“To tell you the truth, no services really helped, I reached out, reached out for all my kids. All [services] let me down. Where we are, for instance, there’s no mental health there. We’re in a little town 230 kays away from Kal[goorlie].

We have nothing. Our kids have no hope, nothing, just a sense of no belonging, nothing. Lost everything, culture. Do more, do more things for our youth, put things there, especially in country towns,” she said.

I know it’s hard, but set some programs up, give them some sense of belonging, sense of hope.”

Norma Ashwin from Leonora in WA’s Goldfields region lost her son to suicide about a year ago and travelled to Canberra for the ATSISPEP suicide prevention report launch.

Ms Ashwin was part of a group of Aboriginal families who have lost relatives to suicide that met Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before Thursday’s launch.

She urged Governments to focus on young people in regional areas.

Part 3 NACCHO Coverage #ATSISPEP report


 Our thanks to Suicide Prevention researcher and campaigner, Gerry Georgatos – Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights for assistance with photos


Part 1 Article from Pat Dudgeon and Tom Calma

Part 2 Government Press Release

Response from Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Sussan Ley, and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt.

Emotional Pat Dodson calls for action to stop devastating rate of Indigenous suicide

Aboriginal senator Pat Dodson has fought back tears telling the story of a 12-year-old boy who took his own life.


Senator Dodson on Thursday joined MPs and senators from across the political spectrum at the launch of an Indigenous suicide prevention report.

Download report atispep-report-final-web-pdf-nov-10

“There’s nothing worse, as you would know, to get a call in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning from a relation, and most of us experience this as Aboriginal people, to tell you that someone has died,” he said.

The West Australian Labor senator is based in the Kimberley region and recalled the death at Fitzroy Crossing, a town east of Broome.

“Someone very young has taken their life,” Senator Dodson said.

“I know it happened in Fitzroy [Crossing], a dear 12-year-old boy whose parents found him.

“Whatever caused that, I don’t know, and it’s very hard for us to understand.”

Nearly a third of children who take their own lives in Australia are Indigenous.

Government commits to adopting some recommendations


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) was undertaken over more than a year.

Download atispep-report-final-web-pdf-nov-10

It recommended 17 projects and strategies to drive down the devastating rate of suicide in Indigenous communities, including:

  • A national Indigenous suicide prevention implementation plan
  • Indigenous-controlled organisations to lead mental health care in communities
  • Cultural training for mental health workers
Nigel Scullion talks at a press conference.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the Government was “by and large” adopting the suggestions.

“One life lost is one life too many. There’s no targets about this. This has to stop,” Senator Scullion said.

But he said more money for Indigenous mental healthcare was not the answer, instead urging better coordination among health organisations.

“What we’ve found through this process is that there are a number of organisations within a community and those organisations just need to know what their role and responsibility is.”

Suicide rates in some Aboriginal communities, including in the Kimberley, are among the highest in the world.

In August, the Federal Government said the Kimberley would be one of 12 trial sites for a new suicide prevention approach as part of the Government’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

24-Hour Telephone Counselling

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, call:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : #ATSISPEP report and the hope of a new era in Indigenous suicide prevention


 ” The many years of community-generated work in suicide prevention is something that Indigenous Australia, as a collective, should take great pride in.

However, we have to acknowledge also that this alone has not been enough to stop Indigenous suicide rates overall getting higher recently, and that some communities remain at particularly high risk.

ATSISPEP’s first challenge was to identify ‘what works:’ the success factors evident from the suicide prevention work already undertaken in our communities. The second challenge was to support the dissemination of ‘what works’ across all communities: to share knowledge, and ensure that all can benefit from this collective wisdom and experience.”

Professor Pat Dudgeon and Professor Tom Calma AO Website

Photo above  : Page 15 NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper to be published 16 November

Read over 100 NACCHO articles here on suicide prevention

After almost two years of work, ATSISPEP released a final report in Canberra on the 10th of November 2016.

Download the final #ATSISPEP report here



The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) is a unique Indigenous-led research project to identify ‘what works’ to prevent suicide in our communities.


At launch at Parliament House with politicians from all parties and special guests the family of Norma from Leonora who lost a son not long ago and Lena from Fitzroy Crossings who lost a daughter.

Our rates of suicide today are twice as high as other Australians and probably growing. Like the tip of an iceberg, high rates of suicide in a community can be a sign of deeper and complex community-wide problems, involving families and people caught in cycles of despair and a sense of hopelessness. Yet not all our communities, even those facing similar challenges, experience the same rates of suicide.

ATSISPEP was developed with the recognition that for many years Indigenous Elders, community leaders and healers in some of our worst-affected communities have been working tirelessly to prevent suicide.

Often volunteering, and with little or no financial support, they have generated community-specific and culturally-based ways of bringing people back from the edge of suicide and also supporting families who are bereaved by loss.

In some cases, they have worked with entire communities to address the underlying community-level issues that can contribute to a suicide, for example, unemployment, violence, and alcohol and drug use. In others, they have connected young people to their Indigenous identity and culture and the sense of worth this can bring.

Some good examples are presented in the Elders’ Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm & Youth Suicide (see:

The many years of community-generated work in suicide prevention is something that Indigenous Australia, as a collective, should take great pride in.

However, we have to acknowledge also that this alone has not been enough to stop Indigenous suicide rates overall getting higher recently, and that some communities remain at particularly high risk.

ATSISPEP’s first challenge was to identify ‘what works:’ the success factors evident from the suicide prevention work already undertaken in our communities. The second challenge was to support the dissemination of ‘what works’ across all communities: to share knowledge, and ensure that all can benefit from this collective wisdom and experience.

The report includes an analysis of Indigenous suicide prevention program evaluations and previous research and consultations on Indigenous suicide prevention. It includes the input of ATSISPEP-held regional community roundtables, and roundtables on specific topics (for example, on Indigenous young people and suicide prevention, justice issues, and Indigenous LGBTQI and suicide prevention).

ATSISPEP also held a national conference in Alice Springs this May. It was an opportunity to test our work and gather even more information from the 370 attendees, most of whom were Indigenous.

A selection of some of the success factors identified in the report includes:

  • Community-specific programs to address the community-level contributing factors that can lead to suicide.
  • Community development and ownership of programs.
  • Access to culturally competent counsellors and mental health support for people at immediate risk of suicide.
  • The involvement of Elders in programs.
  • Cultural frameworks for programs, and cultural elements in them: for example, culturally-informed healing practices and connecting young people to country.
  • Alcohol and drug use-reduction as a part of an overall response.
  • Gatekeeper training, whereby community members are trained to identify people at risk of suicide and connect them to help.
  • For young people, peer to peer mentoring, and education and leadership on suicide prevention.
  • 24-hour, seven-day a week availability of support.

With ATSISPEP complete, the implementation of the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (with almost $18 million pledged to it) through the Primary Health Networks, and the establishment of at least two Indigenous suicide prevention trial sites (that were recently announced by the Australian Government) can proceed on an evidence-based footing. ATSISPEP has also generated tools for both Indigenous communities and Primary Health Networks to use to develop and strengthen programs.


Our NACCHO CEO Pat Turner as a contributor to the report attended the launch pictured here with Senator Patrick Dodson and co-author Prof. Pat Dudgeon

The hope of ATSISPEP is that its report will help bring about a new era in Indigenous suicide prevention in which many lives will be saved. It is now incumbent on Australian governments to ensure that our communities receive the support they need to help make this happen.

All of the ATSISPEP reports can be accessed at

ATSISPEP was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

If you are looking for help please call one of the following national helplines:
Lifeline Counselling Service: 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)