University of Western Australia: Blueprint for saving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives

Two leading organisations will work together on a new approach to preventing suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, combining proven strategies to create a powerful blueprint for saving lives.

The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) at The University of Western Australia will collaborate with Black Dog Institute to develop an integrated systems approach to suicide prevention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Using the findings of the 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP), the collaboration will work with Indigenous community organisations, clinicians, academic, and others to develop interventions with the potential to reduce Indigenous suicides.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, Director of the CBPATSISP said that tragically, suicide rates in this population were more than double that of other Australians.

“We demonstrated through ATSISPEP that the unacceptably high rate of suicide in our communities is a consequence of colonisation, intergenerational trauma and systemic racism, and we know that effective responses must be based on Indigenous leadership and empowerment,” Professor Dudgeon said.

“Since that time, we’ve greatly increased our understanding about interventions that help our people find strength in community, culture and Country. This collaboration represents the next stage in that learning, understanding how existing services and systems in a community can be applied together, with a cultural lens, so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can benefit from an integrated framework.”

Leilani Darwin, Director Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy at Black Dog Institute, said systems approaches, where multiple proven suicide prevention interventions are applied simultaneously, were well-established worldwide and could significantly reduce suicides.

“Black Dog Institute recently provided support and guidance to 12 regional sites in the National Suicide Prevention Trial through its LifeSpan integrated suicide prevention model, with several of these including a priority population focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Ms Darwin said.

“Working with the CBPATSISP represents an opportunity to ensure those gains are extended to Indigenous communities in a supportive and culturally responsive way.”

A meeting later this month between the CBPATSISP, Black Dog Institute and other key organisations including Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), will discuss scope for the work which will be followed by broad consultation. The work will support the Federal Government’s forthcoming National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.