The Australian Government is investing $1 million in a new Critical Response Project to ensure the services available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families affected by suicides or attempted suicides are better coordinated and delivered in culturally appropriate ways.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, who launched the initiative in Perth today, said it involved coordinators meeting with affected families to identify their needs and then making sure suitable services were delivered.
"One in three deaths across the country among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 35 is a suicide and the rates of suicide for First Australians is twice that of other Australians. This is an ongoing tragedy," Minister Scullion said.
"Although suicide services for First Australians do exist on the ground, they need to be better coordinated and driven by the needs of affected families. This initiative funds coordinators to work directly with the families to ensure this happens.
"The Critical Response Project helps to coordinate first-response services and ensure that essential support is provided to individuals, families and local communities dealing with suicide. It will also develop and trial new models of care to build resilience in communities as well as the roll-out of mental health first-aid training."
Minister Scullion said the initiative was initially focused on Western Australia where there was the greatest need. One in four Indigenous suicides across Australia occurs in WA.
The Critical Response Project will work closely with the Western Australia Mental Health Commission and operate alongside existing suicide response services. It is important to note this initiative does not replace services such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Standby that people at risk of self-harm should contact in the first instance.
Indigenous Mental Health Commissioner, Professor Pat Dudgeon, said the project would improve suicide critical response services in WA and arose from work undertaken by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Evaluation Prevention Project.
"There is a great need for governments, Commonwealth, state and local to be working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to offer a critical response to incidents such as suicide. There is a willingness for governments to deal with all of this and our project will help inform how we go about it," Professor Dudgeon said.
The initiative will be coordinated by the University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies and trialled through to January 2017. People are able to contact the Critical Response Project by ringing 0455 252 678.