NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Pat Dudgeon “Closing the Mental Health Gap ” Special Issue : Indigenous Psychology

 
” The available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage has shone a light on the Indigenous mental health and wellbeing gap.

In their commentary in this special issue, Calma, Dudgeon, and Bray (2017) provide details of the challenges in mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and what needs to happen to change the situation.All articles in this issue are concerned with and aimed at contributing to closing the mental health gap.”

Pat Dudgeon Pictured above with NACCHO CEO Pat Turner at the recent launch of the ATSISPEP report

Download all reports HERE

Articles

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    The Australian Psychological Society’s Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (pages 261–267)Timothy A Carey, Pat Dudgeon, Sabine W Hammond, Tanja Hirvonen, Michael Kyrios, Louise Roufeil and Peter Smith

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We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land across Australia and pay our respect to the Elders past, present and future.

We also acknowledge young people as they are our future leaders, the custodians of our stories, cultures, histories and languages.

We as seniors must create opportunities and encourage our youth to realise their full potential (Calma, 2015).This special issue on Indigenous psychology is timely in a changing landscape for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereon Indigenous) people and their participation in an Australian nationhood. A range of significant landmark events suggests that both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Australians are in a process of decolonisation.

In our first special issue of Australian Psychologist: Indigenous Australian Psychologies (2000), we marked the changes that were taking place and our hopes for a better future. Here our focus was on psychology, Indigenous issues, and reconciliation. Looking back to that time 17 years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs have clearly advanced.As a result of the work of Indigenous communities, their leaders, and social justice advocates, there is now a greater public awareness of the social and cultural determinants of Indigenous health and a range of government policies and actions aimed at closing the health and life expectancy gap between the Indigenous peoples of the land and other Australians.In his role as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Professor Tom Calma released a landmark document, the Social Justice Report (2005).This called for the nation to commit to achieving health equality for Indigenous people by 2030, and saw the establishment of the Close the Gap campaign in 2007.Dialogues about the underlying and deeply entrenched socio-economic disadvantage that contributes to this gap are now part of the national dialogue. Government policies and action to close the gap have also now become a national priority that is annually reviewed.This year, the Prime Minster presented the ninth annual report card to Parliament (Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report, 2017).Notably, Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention is highlighted as a priority in this report, which is acknowledged by all Australian governments.
Closing the Mental Health Gap

The available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage has shone a light on the Indigenous mental health and wellbeing gap.

In their commentary in this special issue, Calma, Dudgeon, and Bray (2017) provide details of the challenges in mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and what needs to happen to change the situation.
All articles in this issue are concerned with and aimed at contributing to closing the mental health gap.
For example, in Addressing the Mental Health Gap in Working with Indigenous Youth: Some Considerations for non-Indigenous Psychologists Working with Indigenous Youth (Ralph & Ryan, 2017), an overview of therapeutic approaches with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly youth, is provided.
Ralph and Ryan (2017) stress that an understanding of Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is necessary for all those who work with youth: “for practitioners working with Indigenous youth and others there is a need to work from within a social and emotional wellbeing framework and a need to adapt the application of any focused psychological strategies to the cultural context of the individual client.” They also express justifiable concerns that “the average number of sessions provided under ATAPS for youth aged 12–25 is only 4.8 sessions.”

The SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth is also the focus of Using Culturally Appropriate Approaches to the Development of KidsMatter Resources to Support the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Children (Smith, O’Grady, Cubillo, & Cavanagh, 2017).

In this article, Smith, O’Grady, Cubillo, and Cavanagh (2017) describe the methodology behind the development of resources in the KidsMatter Aboriginal Children’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing Project. An inclusive process of workshops and consultations with Aboriginal people was informed by participatory action, narrative therapy, and critically reflexive practice. This process enabled researchers and the community to build effective learning tools for children for use by Aboriginal families, schools, and early childhood and health and community services.

Another article in this special issue, Narratives of Twitter as a Platform for Professional Development, Innovation and Advocacy (Geia, Pearson, & Sweet, 2017) offers a compelling argument for the online engagement of psychologists—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—in raising community awareness of strategies for decolonisation, for circulating empowering, strength-based approaches to Indigenous wellbeing, and supporting and recruiting potential practitioners.

This paper describes the significant success of some transformative Indigenous Twitter movements. Lynore Geia, a Bwgcolman woman from Palm Island in Queensland, discusses #IHMayDay the day long Twitter festival raising awareness of health issues; Luke Pearson, a Gamilaroi man, describes how he set up @IndigenousX and the subsequent global and local impact on healing and knowledge building, and Melissa Sweet discusses the important #JustJustice campaign.

The connections between the criminal justice system and SEWB are also focused on in a significant paper on the urgent need for justice reinvestment, Keeping on Country: Understanding and Responding to Crime and recidivism in Remote Indigenous Communities (Dawes, Davidson, Walden, & Isaacs, 2017). Outcomes from a qualitative study using a multidisciplinary research team that engaged the community through a specific participatory action research process are discussed.

Their findings resonate with the principles of justice reinvestment; Dawes, Davidson, Walden and Isaacs (2017) suggest that with the right methodological approach Indigenous communities themselves can easily identify the underlying factors contributing to crime. With the community, localised strategies to address over-representation in the justice system can be developed. Further, adopting a self-determination approach provides a strength-based position for psychologists working in the area.

Cross-cultural understanding and developing and maintaining local culture in remote communities is the focus of another unique article, The Uti Kulintjaku Project: The Path to Clear Thinking. An Evaluation of an Innovative, Aboriginal-led Approach to Developing Bi-cultural Understanding of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2017).

The results of 3 years of research was an innovative approach to strengthen shared understandings in mental health. The research work undertaken is at the heart of cross-cultural relationships, that is, exploring and articulating deep understandings of language and concepts. Both the community leaders and the non-Indigenous workers in the research team have benefited from this appropriately long-term project.

 

It increased the empowerment and capacity building of the leaders involved, and increased the cultural understanding of non-Indigenous service providers. Togni (2017) demonstrates that the building of stronger bi-cultural wellbeing literacies will “lead to increased help-seeking, strengthened cultural competency within health services and Anangu leadership in strengthening Anangu social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB).”

The importance of recognising the contributions of Indigenous concepts of SEWB is also the focus of Decolonising Psychology: Validating Social and Emotional Wellbeing (Dudgeon, Bray & D’Costa, Walker, 2017) which uses findings from the National Empowerment Project to explore the seven domains of SEWB, namely body, mind and emotions, family, community, culture, Country, and spirituality.

 

In this article, Dudgeon, Bray, D’Costa, and Walker (2017) highlight how SEWB, (an emerging concept within Indigenous psychology), is important in holistically addressing the well being needs of Indigenous people.

The breadth of topics and approaches of the articles in this special issue are a testament to the strong emergence of Australian Indigenous psychology and are just some of the numerous innovations being made in the field across the nation. New methodologies, important findings, strategies for research futures, and guides for practitioners are offered. Each paper makes a significant contribution to both the discipline, the project of Indigenous social justice, and closing the mental health gap.

Indigenous PsychologyIndigenous psychology is emerging as a powerful new discipline and was recognised at a global level with the establishment of the Task Force for Indigenous Psychology in the Society for Humanistic Psychology, Division 32, American Psychological Association in 2010. The Task Force describes Indigenous psychology as:

  1. A reaction against the colonisation/hegemony of Western psychology.
  2. The need for non-Western cultures to solve their local problems—Indigenous practices and applications.
  3. The need for a non-Western culture to recognise itself in the constructs and practices of psychology.
  4. The need to use Indigenous philosophies and concepts to generate theories of global discourse.

We address each of these factors below; however, it is noted that implicit within these is a recognition that the principle of self-determination, confirmed as an underlying principle in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) (2007), is central to wellbeing and the survival of cultural rights. Specifically, there are provisions regarding obligations to respect, recognise, and uphold Indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights to develop, maintain, and use their own health systems, institutional structures, distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, and practices in pursuit of their right to health and mental health and wellbeing. Authors such as Dudgeon and Walker (2015) have examined this relationship in other papers.

  • 1.A reaction against the colonisation/hegemony of Western psychology

The measured and principled response of Australia Indigenous psychology to the colonising impacts of Western psychology has challenged the discipline to re-think foundational assumptions. Since the 1990s Indigenous psychologies across the world have illuminated the ways in which Western therapeutic paradigms have privileged a concept of individual mental health. In short, the normalisation of Western individualism has reduced our understanding of psychological distress and healing. Indigenous therapeutic knowledge about the self as a dynamic flow of connections have until quite recently been silenced, and even pathologised. Yet gains in the discipline over the last few decades have seen a shift from Indigenous people being framed as objects of research to being agents of meaning and transformation. The marginalisation of Indigenous psychological research within the academy is still, however, an issue which requires change.

  • 2.The need for non-Western cultures to solve their local problems—Indigenous practices and applications

There is a broad consensus across Australian Indigenous communities that culturally strong therapeutic knowledge and practices are ones which articulate solutions identified by local communities (Dudgeon et al., 2014). Respect for the cultural knowledge of Elders is also important in the capacity building of on-country healing programs aimed at reducing youth suicide and “highlight the need for continued support for Elders in maintaining and passing on their cultural knowledge to young people” (Solutions That Work: What the Evidence and Our People Tell Us, 2016, p. 22).

  • 3.The need for a non-Western culture to recognise itself in the constructs and practices of psychology

This form of recognition is foundational to the process of decolonisation and for communities to identity their own solutions and articulate their own cultural concepts. However, it is equally important for Western psychology to recognise how the discipline has constructed Indigenous subjectivity and practiced culturally inappropriate therapeutic interventions. In this respect, the Australian Psychological Society has made history by being the first to formally apologise to Indigenous peoples for past oppressive practices and to vow to make systemic changes. The 2016 people was made at the Australian Psychological Society Congress 2016 in Melbourne. This has become a significant event that gained considerable worldwide media attention and has impact not only in Australia but internationally, with the American Psychological Association now developing a similar apology to their Indigenous people. It is fitting that those involved with progressing the APS apology comment in this special edition. Carey et al. provide a brief overview of the APS’s involvement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues, tracing the history that contextualises the apology. The apology, how it came about and the reaction to it, particularly by APS members, describes a changing discipline. Following the Australian Government’s landmark apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Stolen Generations in 2008, the APS apology speaks to a maturing sense of race relations and nationhood. In my opinion, the apology formally owns and acknowledges the wrongs done, and the denial of the past, the injustice and oppression that was the lot of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In some respects, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have suffered a double burden—of suffering injustice and also of having that suffering denied. The apology from the nation and the APS is important; they value people and their experiences and give people respect and a genuine presence. A shared journey of healing for us as a nation can progress.

  • 4.The need to use Indigenous philosophies and concepts to generate theories of global discourse

There is a growing recognition of how psychology has been complicit in the processes of colonisation and oppressing Indigenous peoples. Recognising and acknowledging this past is important, hence the importance of the APS apology. Such acknowledgement and apology allows us to move forward, acknowledging colonisation allows decolonisation for both groups and into a more advanced discipline. It allows space for other viewpoints and understandings to emerge that not only benefit Indigenous peoples but all Australians. There is reason for optimism and the potential for empowerment and genuine inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in the discipline. In order to decolonise psychology in Australia, the discipline needs to consider and incorporate Aboriginal culture and beliefs into mental health services and research. We see this happening from the papers in this special edition. There is focus on the development of Aboriginal paradigms, standpoints, and concepts such as social and emotional wellbeing. Further, there is a deep appreciation of cultural difference and a willingness to work to develop mutual understandings. The papers in the special edition show the promise of different approaches and the development of a new phase of Australian psychology.

In 2017 we stand at a new beginning. We are living in a time of continual change. Twenty years ago Ernest Hunter wrote:

Self determination’, ‘quality of life’, ‘wellbeing’: these are terms that have only recently entered the vocabulary of mental health professionals working in indigenous settings. They are unfamiliar and handled with uncertainty and, at times, temerity; they are also unavoidable (1997, p. 821).

This special issue attests to how such terms are now a common part of discussions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing, and part of a vanguard movement in psychology.

Such terms have a substantial material force and a political history, as well as being part of the discourse of Indigenous psychology. Globally, the focus on decolonisation has emerged as a new defining movement which is in the process of transforming all disciplines, not only psychology. Decades of complex Indigenous struggles, debates, and victories are driving decolonisation, and it is because of this that terms such as “self-determination” and “wellbeing” resonate with a particular historical dignity.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health movement is decolonising the discourse of Australian mental health not only within specialised journals but within the public sphere through the opening up of national debates about the relationship between racism and wellbeing. In doing so, the movement has also contributed to the national projects of overcoming racism and de-stigmatising psychological distress by providing insights into the social and cultural determinants of mental health.

TerminologyA range of words are used to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Aboriginal peoples. The term Indigenous is also used by authors, as this includes both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While encouraging authors to use terms that best fit the people they write with, I acknowledge that the preferred term is “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” The Australian Human Rights Commission explains this term in further detail:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain distinct cultural identities whether they live in urban, regional or remote areas of Australia. The word ‘peoples’ recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a collective, rather than purely individual, dimension to their lives. This is affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2012, p. 6).

NACCHO #ATSISPEP News Alert : Preview First Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in Alice Springs this week

helen-peterson,-elizabeth-taylor,-evelyn-peterson-data

A community’s journey to find an answer to suicide: Photo:  Helen Peterson, Elizabeth Taylor and Evelyn Peterson. Elizabeth Taylor, who lost her teenage friend to suicide, said the whole town was hurting. “Everyone here in Leonora is like family — we all know each other — so when somebody takes their life it hurts everyone,” Ms Taylor said.

“No one should be able to take their own lives — it’s so preventable.”

But Leonora is determined to face its grief.

The town of Leonora, in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields is searching for answers after a spate of suicides. Four young people from the community have taken their own lives since Christmas — all of them Aboriginal.

Full ABC Story below

Previewing the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference in Alice Springs this week

Croakey New

 

DOWNLOAD THE 24 PAGE CONFERENCE PROGRAM HERE

ATSISPEP-ConferenceProgram MAY 2016

The inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference will be held in Alice Springs this week, and is expected to feature discussions about strengths-based, community-driven solutions.

The conference will also hear of the importance of collective healing and secure funding arrangements, according to Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, Croakey contributor and PhD candidate.

Summer May Finlay writes:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are strong and proud. Yet there probably isn’t an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family who hasn’t in some way been touched by suicide or self-harm.

An individual’s social and emotional well-being is closely strongly influenced by and connected to their family and communities’ well-being as well as a strong connection to culture and country.

As well, social determinants that negatively effect people include poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, lack of access to appropriate services and ongoing racism. These make significant contribution to a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and despair for some people and can result in destructive behaviours.

This is why the Inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference is bringing together people, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to discuss not only the appallingly high rates of suicide seen in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics, but also how to work towards a healthy future for individuals, families and communities.

There has been much in the media recently about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and suicide. There was considerable information about the statistics, how terrible they are and the need to address the issue some how. There were many individual’s commentaries about what could be possible solutions.

What the conference aims to do is to bring together people who work in the space at a local level, experts and community to yarn about community-based solutions and the community supports which are required to develop and implement them.

No quick fixes

There cannot be one-size fits all approaches. There are no quick fixes. There are no solutions that can achieve the unachievable in a political cycle. Over 200 years of colonisation, dispossession, racism, discrimination and marginalisation have taken a toll on our communities.

No one knows these impacts better than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves; therefore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-driven solutions are required.

The conference will be held on May 5-6 at the Alice Springs Conference Centre. Keynote speakers are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including Stan Grant and Rosalie Kunoth- Monks. Other significant speakers include Professor Tom Calma, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, Professor Pat Dudgeon, Project Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) and Richard Weston, CEO of the Healing Foundation.

The conference organisers also recognised that we could learn from the experiences of Indigenous people from other countries and have included international representation in the program.

Professor Tom Calma AO, former Social Justice Commissioner, believes that the conference is significant because it prioritises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ perspectives.

“The real significance is that this the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference is that has been organised by us, with most of the speakers and workshops delivered by our people, and the majority of the participants are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.

Focus on protective factors

Vicki O’Donnell, CEO of the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Services Ltd, is a member of the Conference Advisory Committee, and believes the significance of the conference is the strengths-based approach.

“We want to focus on interventions which promote cultural continuity, identity and language. We see these as protective factors. Part of that is building resilient, long-lasting programs,” Ms O’Donnell says.

Professor Calma agrees that a strengths-based approach is one of the key aspects of the conference, which is why there will be a focus on learning from the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We have a number of objectives, and first and foremost is the opportunity for people to learn more about suicide prevention and to share their ideas,” he said. “This learning is not only for government or professionals but also enables communities to share their experiences and thoughts about what needs to be in place.”

Ms O’Donnell agrees that the priority is hearing from people who are working in the space or have lived experience.

She expects the conference will also profile the importance of collective healing, believing that we need to come together as a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country to learn from and support each other.

“As Aboriginal people coming together, we can showcase the good work that’s been done,” she said. “We have common issues and gaps. The conference can also lead to collaborations across the country.”

Ms O’Donnell also expects the conference can assist non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations working in the space. She said:

“For non-Aboriginal people, I would like for them to become more aware of the underlying issues [of suicide and self harm].

The other significant things I hope they take away is that for effective solutions, they need to be co-designed with Aboriginal families and communities. Also, I want to see the non-Aboriginal organisations who receive Aboriginal funding to facilitate a space for this to occur.”

Conference themes

Themes of the conference reflect a strengths-based approach, and include:

  • Community Based Solutions
  • Cultural Solutions
  • Social Determinants
  • Cultural Practices
  • Data and Statistics
  • Prison and its impacts
  • Stolen Generations.

To ensure attendance from all around Australia and from people who might not have had support to attend, the conference offered scholarships or bursaries. Professor Calma said:

“We want to recognise the people who are doing great work, and there are some fantastic groups at the local level who are building peoples awareness and resilience. The participants are from all over the country and… through our bursary program, we were able to make sure that a variety of people from across the country are represented.

We also wanted to make sure that the minority groups of people within our communities are equally represented such as LGBTI, those with disabilities, people very remote communities with limited English and people with lived experience. We also wanted to make sure we had people represented from the stolen generations.”

One could be forgiven for thinking that the conference will be all serious; however, if there is one thing we are good at as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is being able to laugh together, even when things aren’t so great.

Professor Calma says that laughter will also be part of the conference: “One of the thing about Aboriginal people is we can laugh in tough times. The conference is a serious matter but there will be some lighter moments.”

Conference organisers recognise that the conversations may be difficult for some people, and have ensured there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals and psychologists to speak to conference attendees. Three counsellors at the conference will be from the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Services Ltd.

Social media tips

For those of you on social media – we encourage people to tweet, the hashtag is #ATSISPEP. Please keep in mind when engaging with social media that suicide and self-harm are sensitive issues.

Below are some tips on how to engage with social media and the sensitive issue of self-harm and suicide.

• Please do not record, stream or post video of people’s presentations without their express permission.

• Please don’t post tweets with people’s personal stories or photos without their permission.

• We encourage social media posts, which are strengths-based and solutions-focused in keeping with the conference tone.

• We encourage healthy conversations; however, we know trolls do exist and recommend you ignore, report or block them if they engage in negative debate.

Of course, there will be some take-home messages for governments too.

Ms O’Donnell said:

“I want the government to sit up and pay attention to the good work that’s happening in communities. There are some great programs but the funding isn’t sustainable. Every year we have to fight for funds. We shouldn’t have to do that. We don’t want to be in the same situation three years later.”

• On Twitter follow: @OnTopicAus & #ATSISPEP

• For more information on the conference please visit the website: http://www.atsispep.sis.uwa.edu.au/natsispc-2016

local-aboriginal-woman-karen-beasley-data

by Rhiannon Shine

‘Everyone here in Leonora is like family’

Elizabeth Taylor, who lost her teenage friend to suicide, said the whole town was hurting.

“Everyone here in Leonora is like family — we all know each other — so when somebody takes their life it hurts everyone,” Ms Taylor said.

“No one should be able to take their own lives — it’s so preventable.”

But Leonora is determined to face its grief.

About 20 residents from the town have set off on a one-week 3,600-kilometre road trip through the desert to attend Australia’s first-ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference in Alice Springs on May 5 and 6.

The conference is focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander responses to suicide and self-harm.

Presentations will come almost exclusively from Indigenous people.

‘There is no support out there’

Karen Beasley is one of those going on the journey.

“I’m hoping to learn from others and I am hoping to maybe help others,” she said.

“I am looking forward to going to this conference and being with other Indigenous people.”

Ms Beasley lost her niece to suicide in January, just three months after she attempted to take her own life.

“There is no support out there in our communities,” she said.

“There are young people in the communities that you know well.

“One minute they are there and the next minute they are gone. It’s very sad.”

Ms Beasley said finding out about the death of her niece “was like a big brick hitting [me] in the face”.

Leonora Aboriginal elder Richard Evans is the driving force behind the trip to Alice Springs.

He said the trip to the conference was equally as important as the event itself.

“Most of our people… have never been out of Leonora, so I’m trying to take some people across [to] Alice Springs so that they can see outside of Leonora and see what other people are doing out there,” he said.

“I am hoping that they will come back with something bigger and better than what they got here. I hope it broadens their horizons.”

‘It will be an emotional journey’

Ngaanyatjarra elder Glen Cook will act as a cultural guide on the journey.

The group will stop in other remote Aboriginal communities en route to Alice Springs, to see how they deal with issues such as suicide and self-harm.

Mr Cook said it would be an eye-opening experience for the young people.

“It will be an emotional journey because they are carrying a burden on their shoulder and it will bring a lot of memories of people that have passed away,” he said.

“I hope that the young people … will bring a lot of good ideas back,” he said.

Leonora local Evelyn Peterson, who lost a friend to suicide, said she wanted to learn how to spot the signs of someone who was suicidal.

“Life is too short — especially for these young ones. That is what makes it harder; we didn’t know those young people were going through those things,” she said.

“Everybody needs someone to talk to.”

Leonora Deputy Shire President Matt Taylor said he hoped the group would return with ideas on how to rebuild and prevent any more young lives from being lost.

“Our community has been treading on eggshells. It has been very difficult to find a way forward,” Mr Taylor said.

“From the conference in Alice Springs they will bring back the knowledge and hopefully a path on how to empower themselves and our younger generations.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health NEWS : Lost in the great desert , preventing Aboriginal suicide

Punmu sports carnival, Punmu, Western Desert - Kiwirrkurra Lions play the Warralong Bombers. Picture - Lee Griffith / The West Australian 23 June 2010

Answers that have the potential to halt WA’s Aboriginal “suicide crisis” in less than a decade have already been pinpointed, says leading suicide prevention researcher Gerry Georgatos.

Now, greater commitment and adequate funding were needed to begin the move forward.

But he warned if the current “piecemeal approaches” to suicide prevention were not replaced with the well-researched evidence-based strategies now on offer, then the crisis was likely to “increase and worsen”.

December 09, 2015

Mr Georgatos, a member of the research team at the University of WA-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project, said WA was in the grip of a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”, with one in four of the nation’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides occurring in the State and the Kimberley’s indigenous suicide rate among the highest in the world. Deaths had occurred in Aboriginal children aged under 12.

“But what we have long known are the ways forward,” he said.

Gains would be made, he said, when Aboriginal-specific mental health plans and social and emotional wellbeing strategies were introduced and poverty and economic inequalities were addressed.

The project had also determined that racism was still at unacceptable levels in Australia and must be tackled. Internalising the effects of racism had been shown to cause “toxic levels” of stress, distress, depression and feelings of powerlessness that were associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviour and could negate the protective impact of good parenting and a supportive family. The Telethon Kids Institute’s WA Aboriginal Child Health Survey found those who had experienced racism had more than double the risk of having seriously thought about ending their own life.

Increased effort was needed to reduce everyday stress and critical stress events faced by Aboriginal families. Analysis of available data revealed those children and young people presenting with suicidal behaviour were frequently living in overcrowded and substandard housing, exposed to domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, not attending school and likely to have chronic health concerns.

Mr Georgatos said first up there was a pressing need for an Australia-wide critical response service for indigenous suicide.

The project is funded by the Australian Government to evaluate the effectiveness of existing suicide prevention services and programs in combating suicide and suicide ideation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“We are working at a pace to make a real difference but in the end it will come down to governments recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged 15 to 35, nearly one in three deaths will be a suicide,” Mr Georgatos said. “We have the capacity to radically reduce the suicide crisis within less than a decade but we need the political will to underwrite this.

“The problem is that despite the evidence-based research into strategies that will work, governments fail to implement these strategies. We have proposed to the Federal Government, through the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, a critical response model that will save lives.”

Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project, University of WA. Go to atsispep.sis.uwa.edu.au. If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline WA on 13 11 14.

Preventing Aboriginal suicide

Suicide is one of the most common causes of death among Aboriginal people, accounting for one in 19 deaths. Those between the ages of 15-34 are at highest risk, with suicide accounting for nearly one in three deaths. Poverty and historical factors contribute to the suicide rate being, on average, twice as high as that for the non-indigenous population.

Needed to strengthen communities:

  • focusing on youth — providing activities, drop-in centres, camps, connecting youth to elders, providing health promotion and education sessions, parenting programs and restoring sporting competitions.
  • strengthening the sense of community — through shared activities and community events such as fun days, competitions and projects.
  • supporting self-determination.
  • supporting men’s and women’s groups.
  • providing access to employment, education, housing and transport.
  • addressing family violence and substance abuse.

What Works? UWA indigenous studies professor Pat Dudgeon says evidence, expert opinion and experience suggests that:

  • For those at immediate risk of suicide — Culturally safe treatment and support should be delivered through Aboriginal community-controlled health services where possible.
  • For at-risk groups, particularly young people and adults — Developmental factors that can predispose to suicide must be addressed at an early age. Increased efforts are needed to promote positive cultural identity. The WA Aboriginal Child Health Survey 2004 reported clinically significant emotional or behavioural difficulties were lowest in areas of extreme isolation, where adherence to traditional culture and ways of life was strongest.
  • For whole communities — Healing, empowerment and leadership programs and strategies that build social and emotional wellbeing and resilience.

Aboriginal communities agree on the problem and how to fix it

When eight Aboriginal communities across Australia — differing in size, location, history and levels of remoteness — were asked what challenges had a negative impact on social and emotional wellbeing, their answers were similar. It was exactly the same when they were asked what needed to be done to make things better. Their responses were collected by the Aboriginal-led National Empowerment Project, which conducted interviews in Narrogin, Perth, Northam and Toodyay.

What WA leaders say should be done

A four-point action plan to turn around high suicide rates was put together in June last year when 50 Aboriginal and non-indigenous leaders and experts met at a “Call to Action” round-table meeting.

  1. Prioritise Aboriginal “ways of working” (community-led and culturally appropriate).
  2. Establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth forum.
  3. Strengthen the evidence base for Aboriginal suicide prevention.
  4. Develop an Aboriginal cultural framework for suicide prevention services and programs.

Programs showing the way forward — On-Country programs, mentoring, identity building, language reclamation, programs focused on social and emotional wellbeing and empowerment and stand-by services to back up at-risk individuals and grieving families.

Examples in WA:

ALIVE AND KICKING GOALS! — Aims to prevent youth suicide through the use of football and peer education. Volunteer youth leaders, who are well-respected sportsmen, educate others about suicide prevention and demonstrate that seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

YIRIMAN PROJECT — An intergenerational, “on-Country” cultural healing and education program, developed by elders from four Kimberley language groups: Nyikina, Mangala, Karajarri and Walmajarri.


 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism : What are the impacts of racism on Aboriginal health ?

 

“On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.”

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (and a former chair of NACCHO) see her opinion article below

“If you (Indigenous patient) go to a health service and you’re made to feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable or not deserving or prejudged and there are lots of scenarios of Aboriginal people being considered to be perhaps being seriously intoxicated when in fact they’ve been seriously ill.”

Romlie Mokak CEO Australian Indigenous Doctors Association

 

Read over 100 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles pubished over past 6 years by NACCHO 

JUST ADDED 3 March VACCHO POSITION PAPER Health and Racism

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It’s well known that Indigenous Australians have much lower life expectancy than other Australians, and have disproportionately high rates of diseases and other health problems.

Could that in part be due to racism?

Would cultural awareness training for health professionals would reduce the incidence of racism ?

Should governments acknowledge and address the impact of factors such as racism on health outcomes?

These are some of the question being asked in the health and community sectors, amid reports of a rise in racist incidents.

How racism affects health

The impact of racism on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be seen in:

  •   inequitable and reduced access to the resources required for health (employment, education, housing, medical care, etc)
  •   inequitable exposure to risk factors associated with ill-health (junk food, toxic substances, dangerous goods)
  •   stress and negative emotional/cognitive reactions which have negative impacts on mental health as well as affecting the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular and other physiological systems
  •  engagement in unhealthy activities (smoking, alcohol and drug use)
  •  disengagement from healthy activities (sleep, exercise, taking medications)
  •  physical injury via racially motivated assault

HOW DO WE BUILD A HEALTH SYSTEM THAT IS NOT

World news radio Santilla Chingaipe recently interviewed a number of health organisations

It’s well known that Indigenous Australians have much lower life expectancy than other Australians, and have disproportionately high rates of diseases and other health problems.

Could that in part be due to racism?

The Social Determinants of Health Alliance is a group of Australian health, social services and public policy organisations.

It lobbies for action to reduce inequalities in the outcomes from health service delivery.

Chair of the Alliance, Martin Laverty, has no doubt racism sometimes comes into play when Indigenous Australians seek medical attention.

“When an Indigenous person is admitted to hospital, they face twice the risk of death through a coronary event than a non-Indigenous person and concerningly, Indigenous people when having a coronary event in hospital are 40 percent less likely to receive a stent* or a coronary angiplasty. The reason for this is that good intentions, institutional racism is resulting in Indigenous people not always receiving the care that they need from Australia’s hospital system.”

Romlie Mokak is the chief executive of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

Mr Mokak says the burden of ill health is already greater amongst Indigenous people – but this isn’t recognised when they go to access health services.

“Whereas Aboriginal people may present to hospitals often later and sicker, the sort of treatment they might get once in hospital, is not necessarily reflect that higher level of ill health. We’ve got to ask some questions there and why is it that the sickest people are not necessary getting the equitable access to healthcare.”

Mr Mokak says many Indigenous people are victims of prejudice when seeking medical services.

“If you (Indigenous patient) go to a health service and you’re made to feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable or not deserving or prejudged and there are lots of scenarios of Aboriginal people being considered to be perhaps being seriously intoxicated when in fact they’ve been seriously ill.”

But Romlie Mokak from the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association says the onus shouldn’t be on the federal government alone to improve the situation.

He suggests cultural awareness training for health professionals would reduce the incidence of racism.

“Not only is it at the point of the practitioner, but it’s the point of the institution that Aboriginal people must feel that they are in a safe environment. In order to do this, it’s not simply that Aboriginal people should feel resilient and be able to survive these wider systems, but those services really need to have staff that have a strong understanding of Aboriginal people’s culture, history, lived experience and the sorts of health concerns they might have and ways of working competently with Aboriginal people.”

Martin Laverty says at a recent conference, data was presented suggesting an increase in the number of Australians experiencing racism.

And he says one of the results is an increase in psychological illnesses.

“We saw evidence that said about 10 percent of the Australian population in 2004 was reporting regular occurences of individual acts of racism and that that has now double to being close to 20 percent of the Australian population reporting regular occurences of racism. We then saw evidence that the consequences of this are increased psychological illnesses. Psychological illnesses tied directly to a person’s exposure to racism and discrimination and that this is having direct cost impacts of the Australian mental health and broader acute health system.”

Mr Laverty says it’s time governments acknowledged and addressed the impact of factors such as racism on health outcomes.

He says a good start would be to implement the findings of a Senate inquiry into the social determinants of health, released last year.

“In the country of the fair go, we should be seeing Australian governments, Australian communities acting and indentifying these triggers of racism that are causing ill health and recognising that this is not just something the health system that needs to respond to, but the Australian government can respond by implementing the Senate inquiry of March 2013 that outlines the set of steps that can be taken to overcome these detriments of poor social determinants of health.”

Racism a driver of Aboriginal ill health

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On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (and a former chair of NACCHO)

As published in The Australian OPINION originally published in NACCHO July 2013

 In July 2013, the former federal government launched its new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

As with all such plans, much depends on how it is implemented. With the details of how it is to be turned into meaningful action yet to be worked out, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations and others will be reserving their judgment.

Nevertheless, there is one area in which this plan breaks new ground, and that is its identification of racism as a key driver of ill-health.

This may be surprising to many Australians. The common perception seems to be that racism directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is regrettable, but that such incidents are isolated, trivial and essentially harmless.

Such views were commonly expressed, for example, following the racial abuse of Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes earlier this year.

However, the new health plan has got it right on this point, and it is worth looking in more detail at how and why.

So how common are racist behaviours, including speech, directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

A key study in Victoria in 2010-11, funded by the Lowitja Institute, documented very high levels of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians.

It found that of the 755 Aboriginal Victorians surveyed, almost all (97 per cent) reported experiencing racism in the previous year. This included a range of behaviours from being called racist names, teased or hearing jokes or comments that stereotyped Aboriginal people (92 per cent); being sworn at, verbally abused or subjected to offensive gestures because of their race (84 per cent); being spat at, hit or threatened because of their race (67 per cent); to having their property vandalised because of race (54 per cent).

Significantly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed experienced eight or more such incidents in the previous 12 months.

Other studies have found high levels of exposure to racist behaviours and language.

Such statistics describe the reality of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Most Australians would no doubt agree this level of racist abuse and violence is unwarranted and objectionable. It infringes upon our rights – not just our rights as indigenous people but also our legal rights as Australian citizens.

But is it actually harmful? Is it a health issue? Studies in Australia echo findings from around the world that show the experience of racism is significantly related to poor physical and mental health.

There are several ways in which racism has a negative effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health.

First, on an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Second, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be reluctant to seek much-needed health, housing, welfare or other services from providers they perceive to be unwelcoming or who they feel may hold negative stereotypes about them.

Last, there is a growing body of evidence that the health system itself does not provide the same level of care to indigenous people as to other Australians. This systemic racism is not necessarily the result of individual ill-will by health practitioners, but a reflection of inappropriate assumptions made about the health or behaviour of people belonging to a particular group.

What the research tells us, then, is that racism is not rare and it is not harmless: it is a deeply embedded pattern of events and behaviours that significantly contribute to the ill-health suffered by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Tackling these issues is not easy. The first step is for governments to understand racism does have an impact on our health and to take action accordingly. Tackling racism provides governments with an opportunity to make better progress on their commitments to Close the Gap, as the campaign is known, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The new plan has begun this process, but it needs to be backed up with evidence-based action.

Second, as a nation we need to open up the debate about racism and its effects.

The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution is important for many reasons, not least because it could lead to improved stewardship and governance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health (as explored in a recent Lowitja Institute paper, “Legally Invisible”).

However, the process around constitutional recognition provides us with an opportunity to have this difficult but necessary conversation about racism and the relationship between Australia’s First Peoples and those who have arrived in this country more recently. Needless to say, this conversation needs to be conducted respectfully, in a way that is based on the evidence and on respect for the diverse experiences of all Australians.

Last, we need to educate all Australians, especially young people, that discriminatory remarks, however casual or apparently light-hearted or off-the-cuff, have implications for other people’s health.

Whatever approaches we adopt, they must be based on the recognition that people cannot thrive if they are not connected.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be connected with their own families, communities and cultures. We must also feel connected to the rest of society. Racism cuts that connection.

At the same time, racism cuts off all Australians from the unique insights and experiences that we, the nation’s First Peoples, have to offer.

Seen this way, recognising and tackling racism is about creating a healthier, happier and better nation in which all can thrive.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

NACCHO National Apology 6th anniversary : Why the Apology, Reconciliation, Healing and Recognition Matter’

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“We need to get back to the basics of our culture and allow a diversity of opinions in a respectful and supportive manner.

This is the vital element for reconciliation, healing and recognition to become a reality in our great country.”

Speech by Josie Cashman – A member of  the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council

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HEALING FOUNDATION WEBSITE

I am humbled and proud to be asked to speak to you on the 6th anniversary of the National Apology. This year at the opening of Parliament the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott acknowledged  the damage done to the Stolen Generations. The Apology, Reconciliation, Healing and Recognition are so important to enable all Australians to come together. Many leaders have outlined the effects of the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the need for reconciliation, healing and forgiveness. In this speech, I want to use this opportunity to highlight why these things matter and what is the biggest threat to moving forward as one country.

What is the greatest challenge? My answer may surprise you! To frame this I will look back in history to 1938, to an event that was not a sad occasion for our people but a show of strength, pride and hope. I will also talk about one of my Indigenous heroes, the Phillips family of Redfern.

Firstly, I want to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and high achievers past and present. Our modern Indigenous leaders are very, very courageous. They are often attacked for having a view.

Recent examples include on social media where our Australian of the Year was described as ‘Captain Coconut’, the reference to a coconut is a racial slur meaning dark on the outside and white on the inside.  And last year the Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council was subject to a much-publicised raft of racial slurs on social media, including being called “Uncle Tom”, for his willingness to advise a Coalition government on solving the problems that face our people. This behavior should not be tolerated in any culture. Leaders suffer a personal toll with both them and sometimes their families attacked with disgraceful sniping and lateral violence at the hands of their own people. This is fuelled by the far Left for its own agenda.

These groups promote and encourage conspiracy theories that the Government and Australian people are against Aboriginal people and that we continue to be victims of this society. Under this world view, every problem faced by Indigenous people is the result of bad things done by European colonists and assimilation into western cultures. The value of so called “western” influences to Indigenous people – like mainstream education and economic development – is questioned.

Disadvantage and suffering have become the defining characteristics of the far left. Institutionalised welfare is a key policy platform for them. Any suggestion that welfare dependence has had negative impacts on Indigenous people is not tolerated. Underpinning all of this is an idealised concept of traditional Indigenous people not “corrupted” by civilization or development. There is an old expression to describe this – the “noble savage”.

How can we build mutual respect in an environment where fear and distrust of government and the Australian people is encouraged? How can we move on to healing when there are people who want to define us as damaged? This is a cancerous philosophy.

This is the most destructive form of racism and is promoted by the far Left to feed into their ideology that western free market democracy is wrong and we have to keep Indigenous Australians as noble savages. It is this ideology that is stopping Indigenous Australians coming into the economic mainstream. Labelling Aboriginal and Torres Strait People as disadvantaged and victims sets extremely low expectations in terms of employment, business capacity and education. The welfare mentality is the greatest challenge inhibiting our people to rise up. This ideology is the height of discrimination and it is destroying our cultural values which embraced hard work, taking responsibility and contributing to community. This threat from the far Left is what I call intellectual racism.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are sick of being used as a political football for only radicals’ political and ideological purposes. Enough is enough!

This ideology is also totally disrespectful to the Indigenous leaders who had a dream for their families and communities of coming together with all Australians. We need to remember the passion and conviction of our past leaders. They were hopeful and never victims. These leaders were dignified and capable of galvanizing their community as they dreamt for a better life.

An example of this is the historic meeting of the Australian Aborigines’ League at the Day of Mourning Conference on 26 January 1938.  Over 100 people attended from all around the Eastern Seaboard. With little money travelling from far and wide, they were strongly committed and came together to fight for a better life at their own personal risk.  All were well dressed in suits and were well-spoken. Many delegates entered through the back entrance to avoid being identified, afraid they would be victimised by police for attending.

The conference endorsed the following statement:

WE, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in Conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th Anniversary of the whitemen’s seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian Nation of today to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, and we ask for a new policy which will raise our people to FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.

Many of our Aboriginal leaders today are direct descendants of this group and I am privileged to acknowledge the contributions their ancestors made.

African-American scholar and economist Dr Thomas Sowell argues that the most damaging results of the welfare state mentality, is the teaching of victimhood. If African-Americans in the 1930s and 40s had been taught that they were victims, then the Civil Rights movement may have never happened. African-Americans survived through centuries of slavery, then their society began to fall apart with the introduction of the welfare state.

In the 1990s Dr Sowell gave a lecture at a university, a young African-American man who was about to graduate, got up from the audience and said ‘What hope is there for me?’. Dr Sowell took off his glasses and said to this young man, ‘you have four-times the hope of your grandparents and twice that of your parents’. This is equally true for Indigenous families. Why then are we not advancing when we have strong political, business and community support including the National Apology and the reconciliation movement?

Like African-Americans, Indigenous Australians are marred by the disadvantage label. A label that teaches us that there is no hope, so what is the point of participation in society?

This is not a phenomena necessarily related to race. It is reflected in the UK amongst whites in the housing commission areas.  Teenagers there can’t multiply six times nine. This country produced people such as Shakespeare and Issac Newton and now a significant proportion of its society can’t do simple maths and cannot read.

In the worst affected areas of Australia, only 18% of remote and rural Indigenous kids attend school 80% of the time, and that 80% is the minimum required to attend to learn the basics. These are the alarming statistics. In 2014 despite being full citizens with equality in the community and access to education we are now faced with the lowest Indigenous school attendance rates.  Most of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders dreamt of being treated as full citizens of this country with full access to education. Here we are now. But if we allow Indigenous people to think they can’t do anything or think the system is against us, what is the point of learning? No if or buts, every Indigenous child need to attend school! One day, I dream of many Aboriginal doctors, accountants and public servants.

If we believe maybe even an Indigenous astronaut to shoot to the moon, because we now live in a world full of possibilities.

We need to get back to the basics of our culture and allow a diversity of opinions in a respectful and supportive manner. This is the vital element for reconciliation, healing and recognition to become a reality in our great country.

I am pleased to say that there are many examples of modern day Indigenous leaders who are victorious. They do not accept the Left’s intellectual racism and the disadvantaged label. They are the Aussie battlers working hard in the community to lift their people, create hope and to let them believe that anything is possible.

An example of this is Mr Shane Phillips, a community leader in Redfern, Sydney. Shane works day and night with Aboriginal kids picking up troubled teenagers up so they can attend early morning sessions of boxing with the local police officers, which brings both groups together to promote citizenship and harmony. Shane also runs and established the Tribal Warrior Association, these wide-sailed ships, glide gracefully on our glorious Sydney Harbour, providing meaningful employment for Aboriginal people as tourist guides and ship operators. Shane engages with the Aboriginal community, promotes kids going to school and helps Aboriginal people gain self-esteem.

Shane’s parents Richard ‘Dickie’ and Yvonne Philips are also my heroes. These pastors gave endless service to the community. Every year they took in up to 200 Indigenous and non-Indigenous street children, some of whom were forced to sell their bodies to survive. They huddled on the floor in the leaky cold, old church that used to be a factory, on the ‘Block at Redfern’. Sometimes over 50 or more foam beds littered the floor. Smiling, the children lay their heads down, with full bellies entertained by Uncle Richard playing the ukulele and praising the Lord while slowly hushing them into a gentle slumber with his soft lullaby. These kids were given a safe place and hope for their future.

This couple never gave up with limited funds, if any Government funding.  They instead had a strong conviction that good would prevail. Since this time, we have as a nation benefited from the most historical events to bring us together including the apology, movement towards reconciliation, healing and recognition. I am sure Mr and Mrs Philips would be looking down on us from heaven, not only very proud of their children, but of how far all Australians have come.

I feel so privileged to have spent time with these Preachers. I will never forget when I was feeling down when dear Pastor Philips slowly turned his head around to face me, opened his soft dark eyes with the widest smile and gently said to me ‘never give up on the edge of a miracle’.

The appeal by the Australian Aborigines’ League on 26 January 1938 has in fact, been answered. Australia has made new laws for the education and care of Indigenous people, it has raised our people to full citizen status and has introduced a policy to raise our people to equality within the community. Australia has gone even further than our leaders in 1938 would have imagined. Governments and the private sector have been willing to spend billions in pursuit of real equality for Indigenous people. A formal reconciliation process has been in place for over 20 years and governments have apologised for the policies of the forced removal of children. And now our Parliament is preparing to champion a constitutional amendment to recognise Indigenous people in Australia’s constitution. These symbolic steps demonstrate the goodwill of Australia towards its first peoples and their descendants. On the other hand the victimhood label is wrong and harmful for our futures.

It is time for each of us, black, white or brindle to seize the day and galvanize like never before to finally solve the gap. Let us now rewrite wrongs and recognize the first Australians in the best country in the world. We immediately need to support the Prime Minister’s historic push for the recognition of Indigenous peoples in the Australian constitution.  We need to walk the talk in our professional roles and communities. We need now for every Australian to participate in this, every single Australian’s effort counts.

When I was originally selected on the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council our Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott phoned me and I was so nervous it took me three hours to phone him back after receiving my call at 6AM. I will never forget the Prime Minister’s powerful words that are now cemented in my mind. ‘Josephine, Indigenous People are the first class citizens of their own country’.  It dawned on me then how much hope Mr Abbott has today with this historic opportunity for healing, coming together to showcase our talent and diversity in Indigenous Australia through constitutional recognition. We have a rich culture of respect and family values are the cornerstone. We need to get back to basics and that is back to the start.

Today you have an opportunity to make a real difference. You have a choice to reinstate hope in your professional capacity as an Australian Public Servant and as a member of the Australian community. You have the opportunity to bring everyone together as never before and recognize the first peoples of this beautiful country. My task for you is to function on hope.

Everyday all of us, make choices as to whether we live in hope or disadvantage. My own story shows that we have positive choices to make. From deciding to live hopeless in a drain at 12 to now today, I am standing here, my heart is so full I can’t explain. With that faith, now, maybe today, All Australians, are on the edge of a miracle.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health: Estimated 400 suicides in our communities in last three years

Image - www.nacchocommunique.com

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience suicide at around twice the rate of the rest of the population. Aboriginal teenage men and women are up to 5.9 times more likely to take their own lives than non-Aboriginal people.

This is a crisis affecting our young people. It’s critical real action is taken to urgently  address the issue and it’was heartening to see the previous Federal Government taking steps to do that.

For any strategy to be effective, local, community-led healthcare needs to be at its core.

But so far we have not heard from this Government on the future of The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and the $17.8 million over four years in funding to reduce the incidence of suicidal and self-harming behaviour among Indigenous people.”

Justin Mohamed Chair NACCHO commenting on the crisis 

During the last three years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides are at nearly 400, no less than 380.

Research by Gerry Georgatos

Last year, I aggregated Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) hospital collated data on reported suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – 996 suicides from 2001 to 2010. That is 1 in 24 of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – by suicide.

READ previous NACCHO articles on suicide prevention here

NACCHO community support : Raising funds for Elders report into Preventing Self-harm & Indigenous suicide.

Update we reached out goal of $9,500

There is no ABS data available at time to determine whether the crisis has abated or got worse, but I have been record keeping reported suicides – whether through the media, community organisations or via other sources – for my own academic research on premature and unnatural deaths. I have found that from the beginning of 2011 to end 2013 there have been nearly 400 suicides – child, youth and adult – of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

My own research estimates that the 996 suicides recorded between 2001 to 2010 are an under reporting of the actual numbers, and instead of 1 in 24 deaths by suicide, I have estimated that the rate of suicide was between 1 in 12 to 1 in 16. The 2001 to 2010 suicides average to 99.96 suicides per year. In reflection it was 99 custodial deaths alone over a ten year period in the 1980s that led to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. How many suicides will it take before this nation’s most horrific tragedy is met head on with a Royal Commission?

My research compilations during the last three years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides are at nearly 400, no less than 380. Where there had been an average 99 deaths by suicide from 2001 to 2010, according to my research the annual average for 2011 to 2013 has tragically increased to approximately 130 suicides per annum.

Last year, on October 23, the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC), Warren Mundine read my journalism and some of the research published predominately in The National Indigenous Times and by The National Indigenous Radio Service and in The Stringer and Mr Mundine responded with a never-before-seen commitment by a high profile Government official to urgently do something about the out-of-control crisis

He added the crisis to the IAC’s mandate – and he time-limited it to six months so that the crisis would not languish. But three months have passed and we have not heard anything from the Council despite several requests to them for information on any potential progress.

At the time, Mr Mundine expressed his shock at the extent of the crisis.

“The figures sit before your eyes and the scale of it you sort of go ‘oh my god, what the hell is going on?’ I admit that I was probably one of the problems, because we seem to handle mental illness and suicide and shunt it away, we never dealt with it as a society, but we have to deal with it, confront it, because we are losing too many of our people, too many of our young ones… It is about us understanding this and challenging ourselves, and as I said I am just as bad as anyone else out there who put this away and did not want to deal with mental health and the suicide rates, so we have to get over that,” said Mr Mundine.

“We are looking at putting (the suicide crisis) on the table for our first meeting, and looking at over the next three and six months at what’s the advice we will be looking at giving to the Government and the Prime Minister to deal with this issue.”

“My personal opinion, and there is no science in this, this is just my observation, is our self-esteem and culture, I think, plays a major part in these areas.”

“It is a problem and I congratulate The National Indigenous Times for putting it on the front page. We need to really start focusing on this a lot better and I’m not talking about the people who are in there already doing it because they’re the champions. I’m talking about myself and the rest of Australia, we need to get our act together.”

Since October 23 there have been two score suicides.

Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation CEO Robert Eggington said that in the last two weeks another spate of suicides has blighted both the south west and the north west of Western Australia.

“There have been suicides among our youth in recent weeks, another tragic spate. We met with the Premier last year and we are waiting for his promises to be kept to fund safe spaces and strategies for us to coordinate the helping of our people, but to date we have been kept waiting,” said Mr Eggington.

Chair of the Narrunga People, Tauto Sansbury said that he has been trying to arrange a meeting with Mr Mundine but despite three months of effort this has not occurred – Mr Mundine had promised to organise a meeting with Mr Sansbury following articles about the high rate of suicides among South Australia’s Aboriginal people.

“We have become used to broken promises by our State Government for a 24/7 crisis centre for our people and we hoped that Warren (Mundine) would represent the needs of our people, stand up for our most vulnerable, the at-risk, but to date he is yet to meet us let alone represent us,” said Mr Sansbury.

“Our young people and adults continue to fall victim to suicide.”

To the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal child suicides have increased by 500 per cent since the launching of the infamous “Intervention”, Arrente man and Bond University criminology student, Dennis Braun has reported the dark plight of one of the Territory’s communities – 33 deaths in five months. The community’s Elders have requested that the community is not publicly identified.

“The majority of the deceased were under 44 years of age. The youngest was a 13 year old who committed suicide a couple of days just before Christmas.”

“There should be an inquiry, but there is not despite 33 deaths. If this happened in an urban community like Sydney there’d be an outcry even after three or four deaths, with (residents and the wider community) wanting to know why it is happening and where to go for help.”

This publication has prioritised the suicide crisis for quite some time, sustaining the coverage, and the stories of loss, the grieving families, and we have effectively campaigned to Government to rise to the occasion. We do not apologise for this. On October 23, Mr Mundine and the Indigenous Advisory made a commitment that they must keep.

Links:

Warren Mundine including the suicide crisis to the IAC mandate

Government to address Aboriginal suicides

30 suicides in the last three months as we wait for promises to be kept

996 Aboriginal deaths by suicide – another shameful Australian record

Australia’s Aboriginal children – the world’s highest suicide rate

Whose child will be the next to die?

Suicide gap widening, says researcher

NACCHO Smoke Free News : Indigenous smoking rates declining-Tom Calma

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“We know that when provided appropriately targeted information and encouraged to lead the solutions, Indigenous people are responding in an overwhelmingly positive manner.  

But, while the decline of smoking is encouraging, we need to be sure we don’t become complacent.  

The challenge to reduce smoking or not take it up is immense and will require a sustained and well-funded effort to really make a difference for our people and close the healthy inequality gap.”

Dr Tom Calma AO National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking

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The recent release of the Victorian Cancer Council report highlighting that one in ten smokers do not believe that smoking causes illness, only a quarter of smokers could link smoking with heart attacks and half with lung cancer means that there is still work to do.

Two in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to smoke, with one in five dying due to tobacco related illness and costing too many of our peoples’ lives every year.  This burden is too high and emphasises the importance and the urgency needed to continue, and accelerate, efforts to tackle smoking.

However, there are encouraging signs. This research also shows a dramatic increase in awareness of the effects of second-hand smoke on children and unborn babies and generally, strong public awareness of the harms of smoking.

This also follows the promising signs from the 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey which showed that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoking is decreasing, declining 10% over the last decade. The survey also showed a decrease in smoking uptake, with more than one third (37.2%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults never smoking (up from 30% in 2002).

Tackling Indigenous smoking programmes are making traction through a population health and capacity development and empowerment approach.

We know that when provided appropriately targeted information and encouraged to lead the solutions, Indigenous people are responding in an overwhelmingly positive manner.  But, while the decline of smoking is encouraging, we need to be sure we don’t become complacent.  The challenge to reduce smoking or not take it up is immense and will require a sustained and well-funded effort to really make a difference for our people and close the healthy inequality gap.

ABS 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: CLICK HERE

The Perceptions about health effects of smoking and passive smoking among Victorian adults 2003-2011 report found

  • about a quarter of the smokers surveyed could not spontaneously say that heart attacks were caused by smoking.
  • the data also shows less than 10 per cent of current smokers can connect smoking with asthma, gangrene, eye problems or pregnancy problems.
  • And only half of all smokers surveyed could spontaneously link smoking with lung cancer.

Source:

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Cancer Council Victoria releases fresh research on the attitudes of smokers, to mark the anniversary of the 1964 report by the US Surgeon General.

On the 50th anniversary of a landmark report linking smoking to cancer, a new report shows one in 10 smokers do not believe smoking causes illness.

Cancer Council Victoria is releasing fresh research on the attitudes of smokers, to mark the anniversary of the 1964 report by the US Surgeon General.

The survey of 4,500 Victorians was conducted by the charity and included a cross-section of smokers and non-smokers.

Todd Harper from Cancer Council Victoria says about a quarter of the smokers surveyed could not spontaneously say that heart attacks were caused by smoking.

He says the data also shows less than 10 per cent of current smokers can connect smoking with asthma, gangrene, eye problems or pregnancy problems.

And only half of all smokers surveyed could spontaneously link smoking with lung cancer.

“I think what we’ve also seen is some improvement over that period of time, we have a majority of people who recognise the harms of passive smoking, but we still have much more to do,” he said.

“Given that smoking still kills 15,000 people every year, given that smoking will kill one in two long-term users, I think it shows the importance and the urgency of keeping up the fight on tobacco.

“We can’t assume for a second that this job is done when we have 15,000 a year in Australia dying because of smoking.”

Health groups call for tougher tobacco laws

Mr Harper says there needs to be tighter licensing rules governing where cigarettes can be sold in some states, and higher licensing fees in the states that have an existing regulatory environment.

Shops do not need a licence to sell cigarettes in Queensland or Victoria.

Licensing arrangements exist in the other states and territories, but Mr Harper says the licences are far too cheap.

“It’s a remarkable contradiction that cigarettes are more freely available than milk and bread, I think we do need to look at ways of restricting the availability of tobacco products,” he said.

“We also need to be doing more to invest in public education campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and to continue to build on the success that we’ve had with smoke-free environments.

“What we’d like to see is that tobacco products weren’t freely available, particularly in places were children are likely to be frequenting.

“So that might be achieved by for example, increasing licence fees for sellers of tobacco products and I think we can also do more to extend smoke-free environments.

“We don’t do enough to recognise that selling tobacco products is not a right, it’s a privilege, these are products that kill one in two long-term users.

“So we do need to see a fee that is appropriate for the level of harm that’s caused and certainly in many cases, we’re seeing fees in the order of hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars which might be a more appropriate starting point.”

A report published in the American Medical Journal this week says despite progress in reducing the prevalence of daily smoking since the 1980s, the number of smokers has “steadily increased” worldwide due to population growth.

The report says: “Although many countries have implemented control policies, intensified tobacco control efforts are particularly needed in countries where the number of smokers is increasing.”

It says between 1980 and 2012, the estimated prevalence of daily smoking for men declined from 41.2 per cent to 31.1 per cent, and women fell from 10.6 per cent to 6.2 per cent.

But it says more than 50 per cent of men are smoking in countries including Indonesia, Laos, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

50th anniversary of landmark US report linking cigarettes to cancer

Saturday marks 50 years since the US Surgeon General Luther Terry released his report linking cigarettes to cancer.

Simon Chapman is the Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

“This was the second big review after the English reviewed the evidence, which pulled everything together, all the research that existed and said ‘this is a major health problem’, it set the scene for years to come and has caused literally hundreds of millions of people to give up smoking,” Professor Chapman said.

“The Surgeon General is the leading office that pulls together reports about health in the United States and they’ve produced many reports over the years on smoking.

“I think people had understood for many years, people had understood expressions like smoking ‘stunted your growth’, but people had never really understood that smoking was a leading cause of death, in fact it kills more people in the world today than any other single cause.

“This really consolidated that evidence and said that the science was in on it, that smoking killed, as we know today, about half of people who are long term users.”

In 1964, smoking rates sat around 70 per cent for men and 30 per cent of women.

Since then, smoking rates among adults have more than halved, with current figures putting the smoking rate at 17.5 per cent.

Professor Chapman says there was little response in Australia at the time to the report.

“I think that many people found it difficult to take on board that smoking was as harmful as the report concluded, but in the years since that message has been amplified over and over again,” he said.

“There is really nothing in the history of medical science which is so conclusively demonstrated as the relationship of smoking to disease.

“Publicity which the report attracted immediately started causing many people to give up smoking, if you looked at what was happening particularly post-war, smoking was going up and up and up, and when those reports came out it started immediately going down and it’s been going down ever since.

“The tobacco industry were, predicably, very aggressive in their criticisms of the report. They started hiring tamed scientists who travelled around the world including to Australia, saying ‘Oh, it’s air pollution that’s doing this, it’s not cigarette smoking’, it was genetic and issues like that were raised continually by them.

“Unfortunately in Australia we had to wait 10 years for the government to take its first action which was to put very tiny health warnings on the bottom of cigarette packs.

“There was a lot of political pressure, there were a lot of connections of the tobacco industry into government, some of our leading politicians, documents show, had friendly relations with the tobacco industry at the time and so I think that they were reluctant to act against an industry which was in their own words, just another business.”

NACCHO mental health news: Aboriginal mental health gap must be closed : Calma Dudgeon

Patom

Writing in the Australian head of the 20th anniversary todays of a landmark indigenous mental health report, Tom Calma and Pat Dudgeon (pictured above)

Recommended providing indigenous Australians with the training, power and resources needed to determine and deliver our own mental health strategies, within our terms of cultural reference and understandings of mental health.

And in the article below about Aboriginal suicide

Call on governments to do more to prevent Aboriginal people choosing death. “While we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed,”

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN

TWENTY years ago tomorrow, the landmark Burdekin report on mental health was launched. Among indigenous Australians it identified high rates of mental health conditions and dreadful impacts in our communities.

It recommended providing indigenous Australians with the training, power and resources needed to determine and deliver our own mental health strategies, within our terms of cultural reference and understandings of mental health.

Some things have improved in the past 20 years. Since 1993, the training of a critical mass of indigenous psychologists and other mental health workers, the establishment of the Healing Foundation, the rollout of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the emergence of an indigenous mental health movement mean we are ready to both develop and implement our own mental health strategies.

Yet we have also seen little improvement in the statistics and a mental health gap has become apparent. At present, the rates of suicide and hospitalisation for mental health conditions among indigenous Australians are double those of other Australians. Further, poor mental health continues to exacerbate many other disadvantage gaps we suffer.

Today, one in four prisoners is indigenous, even though we comprise only one in 33 of the total population. Among them, the incidence of mental health conditions and substance abuse problems is shockingly high.

The associations between poor mental health and high imprisonment rates are clear. So, 20 years on, while we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed. How then do we understand our mental health, and what might an indigenous response to the mental health gap look like?

Indigenous Australians describe their physical and mental health as having a foundation of “social and emotional wellbeing” originating in strong and positive connections to family and community, traditional lands, ancestors and the spiritual dimension of existence.

This can be understood as a protective factor against the high rates of stressors and negative social determinants (including sickness, poverty, disability, racism, unemployment and so on) that we suffer and that can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and, sometimes, severe mental illness.

In the spirit of “prevention rather than cure”, then, building on culture and social and emotional wellbeing would be at the heart of any overall response to our mental health and suicide rates. We are particularly excited by research in Canadian indigenous communities that reports those with strong cultural foundations who are working to maintain and develop their culture into the future as having significantly lower rates of suicide among their young people than communities under cultural stress.

It is thought that young people from a strong cultural background have a sense of their past and their traditions and are able to draw pride and identity from them. By extension, they also conceive of themselves as having a future: a strong disincentive to suicide. Research in our communities, too, supports the idea that there is a high level of need for programs that support culture, and also those that draw on culture to ground healing, suicide prevention and mental health programs.

Cultural and social and emotional wellbeing-based policy and program development to address the mental health gap is something that indigenous Australians must lead at both the national and community level. Even with the best will in the world, Australian governments are ill-equipped to work in this profoundly cultural indigenous space.

The proper thing here is for Australian governments and others to partner and work with us. Partnership means listening to indigenous Australians and sharing power. For too long the capital in indigenous knowledge, leadership and lived experience has been marginalised and undervalued in all areas, including this one.

Such a partnership at the national level is critical because there is currently no overarching, dedicated strategic response to closing the mental health gap that both pulls together all the causal threads and recognises mental health as a potential circuit breaker in so many areas of disadvantage.

In fact, five overlapping strategies jostle in the space. An overarching plan, or policy framework, being developed under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership is critical if these strategies are to work together towards a common goal and avoid wasteful duplication.

Such a plan would place mental health at the centre of the Council of Australian Governments’ Closing the Gap agenda. It would have a goal to close the indigenous mental health gap and inform a nationally consistent whole-of-government response that includes recognition of, and respect for, our human rights, addresses racism on a national level, and that works to complement the strategies to address disadvantage and social exclusion that already comprise much of the Closing the Gap agenda.

Placing mental health in the Closing the Gap agenda has the added benefit of harnessing the contribution closing the mental health gap could make to closing many other disadvantage gaps. In fact it is our belief that the contribution mental health conditions make to many areas of disadvantage is often underestimated – particularly in many areas that are deemed intractable. This includes lower life expectancy.

Mental health conditions, substance abuse and suicide have been estimated to account for as much as 22 per cent of the health gap. Investing in our mental health services should also be considered as a justice re-investment measure, diverting money that would have been spent on imprisonment into services that address the underlying causes of crime in our communities

. This is one possible source of the additional investment needed, and it could also help to fund the training of the required numbers of indigenous Australians to work at all levels of the mental health system, and to ensure all mental health workers are able to work competently across the cultural divide.

We call on Australian governments to support indigenous Australians to develop and deliver a national plan to close the mental health gap, and to partner with us to advance the solutions identified in the Burdekin report that have stood the test of time.

Tom Calma is a former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner and race discrimination commissioner; Pat Dudgeon, acknowledged as Australia’s first indigenous psychologist, is a member of the National Mental Health Commission. –

Suicide maps reveal Indigenous disaster

RESEARCHERS have painted a bleak picture of suicide in Australia, using mapping technology to pinpoint clusters and hotspots like never before.

But in doing so, they have also highlighted the tragedy of an Aboriginal suicide rate that is double the norm, illustrating the need for remote and impoverished communities to be given more support, compassion and hope. Using several different techniques, based on coronial data from 2004-08, health statistician Derek Cheung and colleagues identified 15 suicide clusters, mainly located in the Northern Territory, the northern part of Western Australia and the northern part of Queensland.

While their studies had some limitations, the researchers have drawn worldwide attention to the higher suicide rate in indigenous communities – publishing their findings in the prestigious PLOS ONE journal earlier this year, and Social Science & Medicine last year – and recommended more targeted policy responses.

“Our findings illustrated that the majority of spatial-temporal suicide clusters were located in the inland areas with high levels of socio-economic deprivation and a high proportion of indigenous people,” they wrote, also pointing to higher rates among men in remote areas, and the existence of clusters in metropolitan areas. The maps demonstrate the need for not only prevention but also “postvention”, where services are directed into communities after a sudden death to help the bereaved cope.

Jill Fisher, the co-ordinator of the National StandBy Response Service, became involved in postvention counselling after a youth suicide 15 years ago was followed, on the first anniversary of the death, by the suicide of two family members.

Having received a $6 million funding boost from the commonwealth last year, Ms Fisher now co-ordinates the largest program of its kind in the world and is rolling out more services here while also briefing agencies overseas on its successes and challenges.

The program, established in 2002 by not-for-profit agency United Synergies, works with local communities to respond to crises caused by suicide.

Ms Fisher said postvention seemed to be more effective in indigenous communities “because it is based on a principle that in a crisis people come together”.

“Some Aboriginal communities start to feel that suicide is all around them, and sometimes that is erroneous and we need to deliver hope,” Ms Fisher said.

“Many people don’t realise that suicide doesn’t appear to have been part of Aboriginal culture prior to white colonisation. We have strong cultural protocols, indigenous representation and the support of elders.”

Writing in Inquirer today, ahead of the 20th anniversary tomorrow of a landmark indigenous mental health report, Tom Calma and Pat Dudgeon call on governments to do more to prevent Aboriginal people choosing death. “While we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed,” they write.

If you are depressed or contemplating suicide, help is available at Lifeline on 131 114.

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NACCHO World Mental Health Day news :Abbott Government Commitment to Mental Health

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The Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton, MP announced today the first Australian Government actions to progress mental health as a key priority area.

Marking World Mental Health Day, Mr Dutton said there was clearly a need for a comprehensive review of mental health services to ensure that they are delivered to those people most in need, and that funding is provided to those programmes that have proven to be most effective on the frontline.

SEE ALL NACCHO previous mental health stories here

SEE ALL NACCHO Social and emotional stories here

SEE ALL NACCHO suicide prevention stories here

“People with mental illness deserve the same standards of access and treatment as those with a physical illness and I have asked the National Mental Health Commission to do a thorough review of all existing services, state and federal and non-government, to assess how well and efficiently they are helping their clients,” Mr Dutton said.

“The Review aims to ensure services are being properly targeted, that services are not being duplicated and that programmes are not being unnecessarily burdened by red tape.

“As part of this process, we will seek to identify gaps in both mental health research and workforce development and training. We will also consider the particular challenges of providing services in rural, regional and remote Australia.”

Other areas of committed funding are:

  • Establishment of a National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health.  At a cost of $18 million over four years, the new National Centre will be established by the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre in Victoria which will conduct  clinical trials on cutting edge treatments for young people and train a new generation of mental health workers.
  • Development of a comprehensive e-mental health platform. With funding of $5 million over three years  the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre will develop a new, comprehensive e-mental health platform to make it easier for young people to access advice and support 24 hours a day.
  • headspace: Building on the investment in headspace youth mental health centres, the government will expand the number of sites around Australia to 100.
  • Dementia Research: The government confirms that it will provide a further $200 million over five years to Australian scientists and researchers working on ways to prevent or cure dementia, a brain disease that is expected to affect nearly one million Australians  by 2050,

Mr Dutton said in Australia there is a lot of evidence that people are not getting the mental health help they need, especially young people.

“More research is urgently needed to develop better ways of preventing and treating mental illness and the services provided must be guided by evidence of what works and what doesn’t.

“The Review by the Mental Health Commission is the first step in establishing how we should be funding mental health programmes into the future so that people can have better access to the treatments and services they need as they struggle with mental illness,” Mr Dutton said.

Media contact:  Kay McNiece, Minister Dutton’s Office, 0412 132585

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NACCHO Aboriginal Health news:Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Close The gap

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience suicide at around twice the rate of the rest of the population. Aboriginal teenage men and women are up to 5.9 times more likely to take their own lives than non-Aboriginal people,”

Mr Mohamed said in a recent NACCHO press release (below)

Let’s talk about what can be done by neighbourhoods and workplaces to identify and support people at risk. Let’s see if we can agree about what is best done by families, what by mental health professionals, what by government agencies.

It’s a big ask but let us all think for some moments this week about what we personally can do, and whether there is someone in our personal network who would benefit from a chat about mental stress, or loneliness, or alienation.

Doing nothing won’t help. Doing something may

SUICIDE PREVENTION AUSTRALIA

NACCHO press release

READ previous NACCHO articles on suicide prevention here

Former Federal Mental Health Minister Mark Butler recently released the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy which aims to address Aboriginal suicide rates – which are as high as one a month is some remote Aboriginal communities.

NACCHO Chair Justin Mohamed said the Federal Government’s focus on the issue, particularly the emphasis on local solutions and capacity building, is welcomed, however he said the detail of the plan still needs careful examination.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience suicide at around twice the rate of the rest of the population. Aboriginal teenage men and women are up to 5.9 times more likely to take their own lives than non-Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.

“This is a crisis affecting our young people. It’s critical real action is taken to urgently to address the issue and it’s heartening to see the Federal Government taking steps to do that.”

However Mr Mohamed said that for any strategy to be effective, local, community-led healthcare needed to be at its core.

“Historically, Aboriginal people have not had great experiences with the mental health system, so breaking down the barriers and building trust is going to be key and having Aboriginal people involved in the delivery of services is critical.

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are already having the biggest impacts on holistic improvements in Aboriginal health, including mental health. We are already a trusted source of primary health care within our communities, so its important those centres play a pivotal role in any strategy.

“The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector has always recommended that services be funded to offer an integrated social and emotional wellbeing program with Aboriginal family support workers, alcohol and substance abuse workers, social workers and psychologists available.

“Up to 15 per cent of the 10-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians has been put down to mental health conditions. We look forward to working with the government to map out the best possible approach to addressing this crisis in our community.

Media contact: Colin Cowell 0401 331 251,