UWA | Leading the charge on Indigenous suicide prevention

Awards category
The Community Champion Award
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Suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is twice as high as other Australians, and for younger people its higher still.

The University of Western Australia’s Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention is committed to identifying and promoting evidence-based suicide prevention practices to empower people and communities.  

Importantly the centre’s programs and services are screened through an Indigenous lens, disseminating a range of tools and resources through various avenues for maximum positive impact within communities.  

The centre’s Aboriginal-led research actively performs collaborations, including:

  • strengthening social and emotional wellbeing in the criminal justice system
  • working with Telethon Kids Institute to co-design an aftercare program following a suicide attempt
  • examining coronial responses to suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the centre working to ensure the uptake of its recommendations.

Led by Aboriginal academic Professor Patricia Dudgeon AM, the team is passionate about understanding the complexity of this issue and saving lives. The Centre prioritises Indigenous voice for solutions that work for Indigenous suicide prevention.

Finalists - Professor Pat Dudgeon AM, Ms Julie Robotham, Dr Ee Pin Chang, Dr Jemma Collova, Dr Joan Chan, Ms Teresa Ratana, Ms Tiffany Yuen, Dr Georgiana Cheuk and Ms Tanja Hirvonen

“The CBPATSISP is making a real difference in the lives of Indigenous people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through a suicidal crisis or been bereaved by suicide. The advocacy of Professor Dudgeon and the CBPATSISP team has given an important platform to our people and helped our voices to be heard in the development of suicide prevention policy and practice – both at the highest national level and in direct support of individual communities.The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre worked with the CBPATSISP in 2023 to convene a group of Indigenous people who had lost loved ones to suicide, to discuss their experiences and outline the changes they would like to see to coroners’ courts - which can be distressing and culturally unsafe for our people.

Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander people do not think just in terms of mental health. We view our lives holistically, including our cultural, spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing, and our connections to family, community and Country. Our work with CBPATSISP gave us an opportunity to express those perspectives in our own words and make something positive out of our losses. Those who participated felt respected and cared for, and we know the CBPATSISP will continue to advocate for changes in coronial processes based on the experiences we shared.After a referendum result that has been devastating for Indigenous people, the need is greater than ever for organisations like CBPATSISP that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and value our ways of knowing, being and doing. I am delighted to recommend the CBPATSISP for a Shaping Australia Community Champion Award.”

Vicki McKenna

Head, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, Black Dog Institute

"The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) has had an enduring impact on young Aboriginal people across Australia. I have directly witnessed this impact through my role as CEO of Culture is Life (CisL), an Aboriginal-Led organisation that aims to empower and support young people at risk of self-harm and suicide.

CisL has worked in close partnership with CBPATSISP for several years, recognising them as highly respected organisation that is committed to directly improving the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. Over the past year, CBPATSISP has been instrumental in establishing the inaugural Cultural Exchange Program focused on suicide prevention and wellbeing. This program was transformative for the six young Aboriginal Australians involved, who spent two weeks in Canada with Canadian First Nations youth and Elders. This experience was life changing for the young people, broadening their vision, and strengthening wellbeing. One young person shared a powerful emotional experience; “a particular moment about three days in where we experienced the grand entry to the powwow at Manito Ahbee and we cried, we all cried for what was strong and what was lost.”

The CBPATSISP also played a pivotal role in empowering and building the capacity of the CisL team, and elevating the voices of young people, through supporting a research project run out of CisL. This project focuses on understanding the needs of young people accessing mental health and suicide prevention services, empowering the voices of the youth involved. Through this partnership, we were able to employ an Aboriginal project officer to manage this project, and pay 20 young people for their contribution. It has also provided an avenue for the young people to be involved in research,and upcoming conference presentations.
I wholeheartedly support the CBPATSISP for the Community Champion Award."

Belinda Duarte

CEO Culture is Life

"This testimonial supports the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention’s (CBPATSISP) application for the Shaping Australia Award-Community Champion Award.

The CBPATSISP implemented the Cultural, Social and Emotional Wellbeing (CSEWB) Program in Darwin, in genuine partnership with Danila Dilba Health Service (DDHS) in 2023, by training the staff at DDHS to deliver the CSEWB Program. The CSEWB Program is a culturally-appropriate and evidenced-based program that has shown to enhance resilience and protective factors, and reduce psychological distress.

DDHS has a strong research relationship with CBPATSISP and is Darwin’s only Aboriginal community controlled health service. Building the capacity of the DDHS staff to deliver the CSEWB Program will have an enduring and significant impact on both the staff at DDHS as well as the individuals, families and communities that DDHS support. Empowering the DDHS staff to deliver the CSEWB Program has the potential to transform the lives of over 17,000 individuals, families and communities in the Greater Darwin Region who are supported by DDHS through the delivery of high quality, integrated comprehensive primary health care services. DDHS is privileged to be a beneficiary of the remarkable leadership in Indigenous suicide prevention, dedication and commitment of the CBPATSISP.

I strongly support and wholeheartedly endorse the CBPATSISP for the Community Champion Award. The CBPATSISP team has demonstrated leadership, commitment and dedication in Indigenous suicide prevention by engaging in initiatives that improve the health outcomes of Indigenous peoples, while building the capacity of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations that together contribute to closing the gap on health outcomes of Indigenous Australians."

Rob McPhee

Chief Executive Officer, Danila Dilba Health Service

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