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Thursday, 10 November 2016
Page: 2498

Indigenous Suicide


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. How is the minister working to address the tragic rate of suicide in Indigenous communities, noting that it is twice that of non-Indigenous Australians and rates in the Kimberley in the far north of Western Australia are three times the national rate?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:59): I would like to first of all thank Senator Smith for the question and acknowledge the work that he is doing in this area. I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge all those in this chamber who have participated in assisting both me and government to come to the position we have.

Today, with the Prime Minister, Minister Ley and Minister Watt, I met with Lena Andrews from Fitzroy Crossing, Norma Ashwin from Leonora and her children Sharnice, Rowan and Caeden, who shared the story of their loss. Every single death and tragedy in this area breaks all our hearts. The Indigenous rate of self-harm is twice the national rate and, very tragically, it is five times the rate for young people. It is a problem about which, in the past, with great intent, we—all of us—have tried different things. I can remember, for those who were around in 2010, that I called for and we tried—a number of us on all sides—to agitate for what needed to work. Obviously, the first thing I did when I came here was to commission a review about what worked in the Australian context, to do a comparative analysis of what worked. Again, I thank others in the chamber for their contribution to that report. Today, with Lena, Norma and the kids, we launched that report: the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention evaluation project report. It is a bit of a mouthful, so ATSISPEP it remains.

There are a number of other issues that we dealt with. We had a critical response initiative that we did about halfway through the report that indicated we needed a flying squad to come in and help the families in communities at a particular time. It is a relatively small investment. We believe all the evidence at the moment is that it is working very, very well. But this sets us on a path of an evidence based response into the future. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a supplementary question.



Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:01): Why is the government trialling this new approach to Indigenous suicide prevention services?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:01): As I mentioned, I do not think there was any clarity in the Australian context about what was working. The ATSISPEP report makes a number of recommendations. The most significant part in the recommendations is that they have to be culturally competent organisations and programs for delivery. For the interpretation, that means: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations irrigated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people delivering those services. This is not a report that is going to be on a shelf gaining dust, I assure you. We went to the Kimberley last month. We sat down with members of the community in the Kimberley, and we have asked the Kimberley community to work with us in the rollout of all the evidence that we have from this report. They are away at the moment. They have asked us to come back in December to sit down again, as a parliament, with Indigenous leaders and with Kimberley leaders to ensure that we are embarking on a new way of dealing with this. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a final supplementary question.



Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:02): What other measures has the government introduced to address the rates of Indigenous suicide?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:02): One of the fundamentals—and this is something I would commend to every member of this House—is that, if you have front-line staff, you need them to do a mental health first aid course. If you have not done one, go and do one. They are fascinating. There is an Indigenous mental health first aid course that we are rolling out across the country. We have had an immediate rollout in Groote Eylandt. We know some of the tensions that exist there. That is 225 people. There are another 1,500 of my front-line workers in remote school attendance and community night patrols. The final rollout will be to the 37,000 CDEP participants, because it is about lifting capacity within the community. Like any community, the stigmatisation of mental health is part of the great challenge of talking to people about how they are feeling and how they need to respond and get help. Men—we are the worst. With a mental health first aid course you will understand that this does not need to be stigmatised. That lift in the capacity in the communities will make a vast difference in this area. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: I just advise senators that question time will conclude at 3.30 and 45 seconds. I call Senator Kakoschke-Moore.