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Minister to co-chair Indigenous Suicide Prevention Committee

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Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt will co-chair a new steering committee working directly with Aboriginal communities to address Indigenous suicide prevention.

Mr Wyatt made the announcement as the Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial begins detailed planning and delivery of potentially lifesaving initiatives across the region.

“This is where the rubber hits the road, working very closely at the community level, involving young people, families and elders,” the Minister said when attending a recent suicide prevention roundtable in Broome.

Mr Wyatt said he believed it was important in establishing a strong working partnership between local Aboriginal communities and the Commonwealth, especially through younger people. 

“We now have a strong operational plan based around the communities, to bring promising and proven strategies together in liaison with local people, to make a difference on the ground,” he said.

The Minister praised a presentation by Kimberley Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Forum members Jacob Corpus (aged 20) from Broome and Montana Ahwon (19) from Kununurra, and said young people must be supported to play key roles in reducing suicide.

“Both Montana and Jacob are incredible and inspiring young leaders who have helped identify key factors that impact on Kimberley youth, which the steering committee will now consider,” Mr Wyatt said.

He also recognised the importance of including young Aboriginal people on advisory groups, to help empower them to take up future leadership roles.

Youth forum recommendations included: support for emerging young leaders, positive role models and mentoring; teaching in school of local culture and country traditions; the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and the importance of resilience; and strong youth engagement and networking through sports, arts and local cultural activities.

The steering committee will be co-chaired by Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Deputy CEO Rob McPhee and will report to the Kimberley Suicide Prevention Working Group.

The Government has committed funding of up to $1 million per year over three years to June 2019 to the Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial, to support suicide prevention activities developed by the working group. 

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, has also announced the Government will commit $10 million to expand nationally the suicide prevention trials conducted in WA over the past year.

The Critical Response Team (CRT) model involves trained crisis team visits to families affected by suicide and other traumatic events to co-ordinate support services to help them deal with loss and to build resilience by communities for communities.

Suicide rates among Indigenous people in the Kimberley region of Western Australia are among the highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization. During the period 2001–2010, age-adjusted suicide rates among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians were respectively 21.4 and 10.3 per 100 000 population per year.

The AMA remains committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups to advocate for government investment and cohesive and coordinated strategies to improve health outcomes for Indigenous people. The AMA recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are among the most disadvantaged groups in Australia, and experience high levels of mental ill health and low levels of social and emotional wellbeing.

To read more on the AMA’s position go to position-statement/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islan….

MEREDITH HORNE

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