Joint submission highlights lack of consultation over Aboriginal youth suicides

The Aboriginal Health Council and Youth Affairs Council of WA have given a joint submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Aboriginal Youth Suicides, telling the inquiry there is a disturbing lack of consultation, funding and coordination of services.

The Education and Health Standing Committee is conducting the inquiry following the suicide of a 10 year old girl in the Kimberley.

AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox told the Committee she was frustrated by the lack of consultation and engagement with Aboriginal people.

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHS) have been proven to be the best placed to offer services and support to Aboriginal people,” she said.

“The people employed by ACCHS live and work in their communities, and they have a deep understanding of the issues that affect them.

“We need both the State and Federal Governments to engage with them and consult with them, because they are the ones on the ground who know what’s going on.

“The last thing we need is more fly in fly out services being introduced into communities, without proper engagement with those communities about what they really need.

“We need our people who are already on the ground to be trained and supported to adequately deal with suicides in their communities.

“And we need more 24 hour services. Aboriginal people do not die by suicide between 9 and 5 when services are open. They need to be able to access support around the clock.”

Both organisations agreed there had already been too many inquiries and reports on Aboriginal health, and said that while they see value in calls for a Royal Commission they do not believe it should be a priority.

“The time for talking is over,” said YACWA CEO Ross Wortham. “What we need now is action.

“We believe governments need to broaden their focus from funding clinical and acute services to funding preventative programs that address underlying issues such as housing, employment and family support.

“We need to put more focus on creating resilient, independent young people, and to do that, we need to listen to them and ask them what they need, rather than telling them.

“For those that do not feel comfortable accessing services, we need to equip communities to develop peer and mentoring programs.

“We cannot have a one size fits all approach. We need to listen to individual communities, find out what they need, and then find a way to provide it. And to do that, there needs to be better communication and coordination between the government and non-government sectors.”

The joint submission called for an Aboriginal specific youth suicide strategy to complement the broader Suicide Prevention 2020 Strategy.

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