Advocating for Indigenous Genius, Indigeneity and Wellbeing

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Aboriginal Suicide is Different by Colin Tatz

An expert from Chapter 10. Towards Alleviation

I prefer the words ‘alleviation’ or ‘mitigation’ to the conventional ‘prevention’. One can only prevent what one knows is likely to happen, and then only of one can clearly identify a cause which can be ameliorated or mitigated. We do not know the causes of youth suicide. ‘Prevention’ has not diminished youth suicide in Australia, New Zealand, North America, the Scandinavian countries, Scotland, Sri Lanka or the Pacific Islands, in each of which the rates of youth suicide have escalated markedly. All we can do is try to slow, or deflect, the development of trends towards attempts at suicide.”


Aboriginal Suicide is Different

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Why we need safe houses for Aboriginal men. They are victims too.

Pain of Aboriginal men abused by their women By Corey Sinclair


Tony Linn co-ordinator of Ingkintja Men’s Health.

DOMESTIC violence against men is just as common as it is for women in some Aboriginal communities.

But Aboriginal men are hesitant to speak up because they fear being “shame jobs”.

Former Pioneer footballer Geoffrey Miller says there is a lack of services in Central Australia that can effectively deal with these issues men face.

“When I was working with DASA (Drug & Alcohol Services Association), it was the main problem we had,” he said.

“Women have their own legal aid and shelter — it’s all in place, but for men — there’s no shelter.

“What we used to call the men’s shelter was the prison cause that was the only place to go, even if it’s not their fault.

“If they stepped off their track, they ended up in prison — not a shelter.”

Miller, who previously won a Prime Minister’s Award for providing excellence in service to the community, said a men’s shelter would address a lot of issues that happen in town, like the anti-social behaviour and drinking in the streets.

“When men get kicked out of a home, the worst thing is they walk around the streets and get themselves in that position again,” he said.

“If they had a shelter to go to, they could spend a night there and they’d find where some of the anger in these men are coming from.

“That’s where the big downfall is when they get depressed, they have nowhere to go.

“There’s little things no one has spent time to assess.”

Miller believes the root of the problem is the shift in Aboriginal culture from the men being the bread earners to the women.

“Back in the old days, men were the head of the family but nowadays, that’s taken away from them with pensions and not enough jobs,” he said.

“Men feel lower cause they’re not getting the income his wife is getting, and some wives or partners can be really nasty in that aspect.

“They keep them in their place cause they know they can.

“The men, a lot of the time, will stay cause there’s kids involved or they have nowhere to go.”

But the problem is not just restricted to Aboriginal men.

Miller knows a lot of white men going through similar problems.

“It’s across the board,” he said.

Congress’ Ingkintja Men’s Health’s senior psychologist Max Yffer said they often see men who are victims of interpersonal violence.

“The vast majority are women but it is very difficult for all people to come forward, and that is true across the whole community — not just Aboriginal people,” he said.

“But particularly with Aboriginal people, there is a very strong sense of shame.”

Some of the men who are referred to Mr Yffer as offenders or as the protagonist will often say their female partners had a go at them as well.

“I think there is a broader problem of men feeling a bit lost in their role in society, particularly some men who are caught between a couple of different cultures,” he said.

“Not wanting to steer away from their traditional culture and become more urbanised.”

Mr Yffer agrees that a men’s shelter would be beneficial for Alice Springs.

“It’s something that is talked about a lot,” he said.

“There is the Salvation Army’s men’s hostel but it’s not quite the same as the women’s shelter.

“It doesn’t have quite the same protective aura the women’s shelter does so I think there is definitely a need for a place for men to feel safer.”

Domestic violence related assault in Alice Springs rose 15.2 per cent in 2013.

It is believed one in three victims of family violence and abuse are male.

A study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) confirmed that abused men have almost no services to help them despite also suffering from physical, emotional, verbal, sexual financial and social abuse like women.

Pain of Aboriginal men abused by their women

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Roundtable 2014

The government says there is no evidence
– but the evidence is with the people who have healed and can claim this
for themselves.


The Roundtable brought together Aboriginal community leaders and experts in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention along with experts, scholars and policy makers to engage in
a third conservation about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention with Emeritus Professor Michael Chandler from the University of British Columbia.

The Roundtable style enabled attendees from diverse backgrounds and areas to come together and share their knowledge and discuss ways forward. Relevant papers and briefs were sent prior to the Roundtable and this formed some of the basis about the discussions. Although specific speakers were nominated to provide brief overviews to
topics that were addressed, people came together with the recognition that all attendees have much
to offer the discussions. The speakers provided overviews to motivate and focus the process. We were particularly excited that we had a strong representation of Aboriginal individuals and community groups as well as leading community action groups, researchers and policy makers attending. Our conversations finished at the end
of the two days with strong priority messages and outcomes detailed in a Call to Action.

The Third Conversation (Final) 2014

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Call to Action 2014 | The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Roundtable on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention


Culture and Community: are of central importance to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and strengthen individual and community resilience against psychological distress and suicide. Any program addressing mental health issues and suicide needs to be culturally based and community driven.

Action 1: Prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ways of Working

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural ways of working and community-led healing programs to prevent suicide are prioritised. Culture is central to any program aimed at supporting individual and community social and emotional wellbeing. This should be stipulated in funding models for services and programs.

Action 1

Our Young People: sometimes need support to negotiate ‘two ways’ of living. They also should be supported to contribute to the suicide prevention conversation and assisted on their pathways to community leadership.

Action 2: Establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Forum

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and cultural values should support relevant healing initiatives for suicide prevention. Young people’s views on suicide prevention need to be heard. A ‘youth report’ is urgently needed to complement the recently published Culture is Life Campaign’s Elders Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm and Suicide.

Action 2

Research and evidence: is crucial to understanding and preventing suicide and self- harm. Formal partnerships are needed between community based organisations, data custodians and researchers to develop a culturally informed evidence-base to support effective action. This
will require the development of measures and indicators of cultural continuity, the establishment of new, robust data collections, and the optimal use of existing datasets (including the use of linked administrative data) at aggregate and unit-record levels.

Action 3: Strengthen the evidence base for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention

A taskforce is established to map all services
and programs that aim to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide. A further task is to review existing community consultation outcomes, research evidence, systemic approaches and community-led strategies for suicide prevention.

Action 3

Government Strategies: the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Suicide Prevention Strategy, the Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan all require plans of action for implementation that are developed

in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and stakeholders to ensure the cultural integrity of the resulting services and programs.

Action 4: Develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural framework for suicide prevention services and programs

A cultural framework should guide Whole-Of -Government responses (services and programs) to suicide. Such would prioritise cultural competence, cultural safety and cultural consultation. It would enable the monitoring of the success of such responses by measures of the above.

Action 4

Call to Action 2014

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[NEW INVITATION] Society for Mental Health Research (SMHR) 2014 Conference

Society for Mental Health Research (SMHR) 2014 Conference being held from 3-5 December 2014 at the Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia.

“Using decolonisation as a framework to engage with gender variant and sexuality diverse (LGBQTI) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”