Indigenous Youth Suicides

The number of indigenous youth suicides has reached an alarming rate. Last year, the WA Parliament conducted an inquiry on this issue to determine what steps should be taken to improve the mental health of youth within indigenous communities.  The report contained several recommendations to help indigenous youth.

What initiatives will your party be seeking to implement to address this issue in the next parliament?

Answer

Party

Answer

Australian Christians 

• Give students the opportunity to strive for something – implement a program that is goal oriented and driven by each student
• Ban / reduce alcohol availability within certain communities.
• Give children and young people an opportunity to build a strong cultural identity within their community by parenting with mentors and programs that promote positive lifestyle choices.
• Further resource services such as lifeline and other support services that can assist students anonymously is needed.

Labor

A McGowan Labor Government believes that any action to address Aboriginal youth suicide must be led by Aboriginal communities themselves, with full support and consultation from Government.

The Parliamentary Inquiry from 2016 was initiated w hen WA Labor Member for the Kimberley Josie Farrer MLA called for such an inquiry, saying Parliament needed "to determine what more can be done to halt the worrying number of youth suicides among Aboriginal youth in WA," and "define exactly what has been tried, what hasn't worked and what has." 

Ms Farrer's colleagues were disappointed that the call for an inquiry was initially dismissed by the Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, however, an enquiry was held and it reported in November 2016. 

The Committee's report had 44 recommendations covering many portfolio areas and recommending actions across Government.

It was clear from the report that any action from Government must be across portfolios, coordinated, holistic and above, all in partnership with local Aboriginal communities. 

WA Labor has a policy to break down the barriers between Government departments to ensure a more holistic approach to issues like this that require a cross-portfolio plan. This will underpin our approach in Government to the heartbreaking issue of Aboriginal youth suicide.

Josie Farrer's work on the Kimberley Alternative Juvenile Justice Working Group, which led to her call for the parliamentary inquiry, released a report in 2014 proposing much needed improvements to the current Kimberley youth justice system. 

A McGowan Labor Government will allocate $1 .2 million over 4 years for the implementation of the 'Improving the Juvenile Justice System, Framework.' 

The parliamentary report also highlighted the importance of culture and of improving health, education and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. 

WA Labor is committed to improving the health and welfare of aboriginal people by focusing on improving education and economic opportunities and delivering appropriate health services. The Royalties for Regions program has focused largely on infrastructure and less on the social and economic welfare of regional people, including indigenous communities. WA Labor will keep the Royalties for Regions funding and improve it by focusing on the priorities of the people living in the regions, including creating local jobs in a range of industries. 

There is still an unacceptable educational gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students in terms of academic achievement, attendance and retention levels. 

Direct support and action addressing literacy, attendance, participation and behaviour management in schools must be put in place to support the schooling of aboriginal children. 

WA Labor appreciates the opportunity to hear the concerns of your organisation and to communicate our views to your members.

Liberal Party

Aboriginal people have been identified as a priority in the State Government’s Suicide Prevention 2020 strategy.
The Liberal National Government dedicated $25.9 million over four years in the 2015 State Budget to suicide prevention.
As part of a $3.5 million initiative to boost crisis support, seven Suicide Prevention Coordinators have been appointed across the state, including the Kimberley (the Kimberley Mental Health and Drug Service - through WA Country Health Service – are receiving funding over a three year period for a suicide prevention coordinator for the Kimberley).
The Kimberley Mental Health and Drug Service and Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services work in partnership to deliver culturally appropriate mental health services across the Kimberley. This includes a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist to focus on youth in the Kimberley.
Late last year, members of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention visited the Kimberley providing an opportunity for key stakeholders to provide feedback about current issues being experienced in the Kimberley.
In addition $296,500 in Suicide Prevention Grants was provided in July last year to local government and registered not for-profit organisations to implement suicide prevention training specific to Aboriginal communities. The recent round of suicide prevention grants provided $145,000 to organisations in the Kimberley for suicide prevention training including emotional and social wellbeing training. Of the funding provided, a total of $93,000 has been allocated to training with Aboriginal people to strengthen communities and help reduce instances of suicide.
The State Government has also provided $29 million funding for the Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service (SSAMHS), which supports Aboriginal people with severe mental illness and their families in a culturally appropriate way.
SSAMHS aims to improve access to culturally appropriate mental health services for Aboriginal people and their families; build the capacity of the Aboriginal mental health workforce; develop and maintain interagency partnership aimed at the development of a more holistic approach to Aboriginal mental health care; and to the improve the cultural understanding and functioning of the mental health service.
SSAMHS was recently provided with an additional $10 million for 2017-18

 

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