The Final Consultation of the Draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy

Final Consultation

The final consultation on the draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Plan (NATSISPS) will be open from 11 May 2021 until 28 May 2021.

To provide a submission to this process, please click here to be directed to the online form.

What has happened to date?

GDPSA has been tasked by the Commonwealth Government to new the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (NATSISPS) in consultation with stakeholders and community members.

GDPSA developed a Discussion Paper which highlighted key elements of the NATSISPS for renewal and potential opportunities for long-term policy reform. The Discussion Paper identified a range of questions relating to the way in which the NATSISPS could be updated.

As a first round of wider consultation, GDPSA invited submissions against the questions in the Discussion Paper, or in relation to any other element of NATSISPS renewal. The submissions for this consultation closed on 31 October 2020.

Additionally, GDPSA hosted 13 roundtables with around 150 stakeholders and community members between September 2020 and January 2021, to seek input and feedback on the questions raised through the Discussion Paper and the proposed renewed NATSISPS.

The roundtable participants were provided with accompanying background papers relevant to their workshop topic and an output report was produced after each roundtable summarising the key themes from the discussions. The roundtable categories were as follows:

  • Children
  • Youth
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Sistergirl and Brotherboy (LGBTIQ+SB)
  • Women
  • Men
  • Stolen Generations
  • Lived Experience
  • Integrated Elements
  • Service and Partnerships
  • Workforce
  • National Governance
  • Regional Governance
  • State and Territory

Independent research was conducted on all consultation processes to date, and it is expected the final consultation will also undertake a similar process.

We welcome your inputs on the final consultation of the draft NATSISPS.

In addition, we have kept the original information to provide background for the entire process.


What is the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy?

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (NATSISPS) was released in May 2013. It was developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts and leaders in mental health and suicide prevention. It contains six Action Areas:

  • Building strengths and capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Building strengths and resilience in individuals and families
  • Targeted suicide prevention services
  • Coordinating approaches to prevention
  • Building the evidence base and disseminating information
  • Standards and quality in suicide prevention

Why does it need renewal?

The NATSISPS remains a sound evidence-based strategic response to Indigenous suicide. However, it also responded to a set of circumstances that have changed since 2013, including the following:

  • The replacement of Medicare Locals with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in 2015 and the responsibility for primary mental health care (e.g., provided by GPs) and suicide prevention being given to PHNs in 2016.
  • The adoption of ‘integrated approaches’ as the basis of national suicide prevention activity in 2016. An ‘integrated approach’ involves the coordination of multiple evidence-based responses to suicide at the same time in a community, with the understanding that the effect of the combined responses will be greater than that of the individual parts. The reform commenced with the establishment of 16 sites where integrated approaches were trialled, with the Darwin and the Kimberley sites to specifically trial integrated approaches to Indigenous suicide prevention. Several other trial sites have relevance to Indigenous communities.
  • To support the above, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) was established to determine ‘what works’ in Indigenous suicide prevention based in part on evaluated programs. Published in 2016 as Solutions That Work, the project’s work significantly expanded the Indigenous suicide prevention evidence base.
  • A further ATSISPEP task was to develop a model for suicide postvention services in Indigenous communities – and that became the National Indigenous Postvention Service.
  • New policies including:

    • The 2017 Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and Implementation Plan. This included Australian governments’ commitment both to integrated approaches to suicide prevention (as above) and to supporting the implementation of the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration developed by National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH) in 2015.
    • The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-23.
    • The new Closing the Gap Agreement which includes a target to achieve ‘significant and sustained reductions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide towards zero’ over the life of the agreement.
  • New national level leadership in suicide prevention through the 2018 National Suicide Prevention Leadership & Support Program (NSPLSP) and with a primary responsibility of supporting PHNs’ work in suicide prevention. The NSPLSP includes the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention

Because of the above changes, Australian governments announced the renewal of the NATSISPS, alongside the development of a new mainstream national suicide prevention plan, in the 2017 Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

The renewed NATSISPS will preserve the best of the original strategy but will be updated to account for the above changes for implementation over the next decade.

What is Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and what is its role?

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia (GDPSA) was established in early 2020 as the new Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention national leadership body. It is governed and controlled by Indigenous experts and peak bodies working in these areas, promoting collective excellence in mental health care and suicide prevention.

The members and directors of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit Australia) include Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health, the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association, Indigenous Allied Health Australia, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, National Indigenous Postvention Service, and the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

GDPSA’s Vision is Indigenous leadership, excellence, and presence across all parts of the Australian mental health system and the achievement of the highest attainable standard of social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for Indigenous peoples. The new body takes its name from the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration.

GDPSA has been asked by the Australian Governments to renew the NATSISPS and will work closely with the Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Taskforce to ensure that the mainstream and Indigenous specific parts of the overall national suicide prevention policy framework work together, while ensuring some of the different suicide prevention needs and aspirations of Indigenous peoples are recognised and accommodated through a consultation process.

What are the key issues we have initially identified?

Preliminary advice GDPSA have provided to the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce are that there are two priority areas for consideration in NATSISPS renewal:

  1. Establishing Indigenous governance of Indigenous suicide prevention at all levels including the:

    • National level - including ensuring consistency of approaches among the States and Territories and coordination and oversight of the national-level support elements of integrated approaches to suicide prevention that regions and communities will rely on.
    • Regional level – including the PHN regional level – and of regional activity.
    • Community-level - by recognised community leadership mechanisms, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
  2. Establishing what is important to include in integrated approaches to Indigenous suicide prevention in our communities. With reference to ATSISPEP’s Solutions That Work report, and the to-be-released learnings from the Indigenous-specific suicide prevention trial sites. This includes consideration of clinical and cultural elements of mental health and suicide prevention service provision.

Governance Committee

Rob McPhee (Chair)

Rob McPhee is the Chief Operating Officer at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) based in Broome WA.

His people hail from Derby in the West Kimberley and the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He has held several roles including teaching positions at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia and has worked as a senior adviser in community relations and Indigenous affairs to the oil and gas industry.

He is passionate about social justice for Indigenous people and currently co-chairs the Commonwealth funded Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial Site Working Group.

Wayne Oldfield

Wayne Oldfield is a proud Palawa man from Tasmania and an Aboriginal Community Health Advocate. He has Extensive Board experience within the South Australian Health sector. First Member Elected Board Director on the Adelaide Public Health Network Board, Wayne is also currently a Board Director on the SA Country Public Health Network Board.

Wayne has been a Board Director of The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc, Country Health SA Local Health Network Board Health Advisory Council Inc. (Ministerial appointment) and a prior member of the SA Minister’s Disability Advisory Council.

He was also a member of the Aboriginal Consumer Representative to the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum.

Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark Wenitong is from the Kabi Kabi tribal group of south Queensland. He is currently working as a Medical Advisor at the Apunipima Cape York Health Council in Cairns. As Medical Advisor, Mark’s role is to provide strategic leadership, research translation into practice, support and advice to the Board, CEO, and senior management team.

Mark has worked as Senior Medical Officer at Wuchopperen Health Services in Cairns for nine years; acting CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in primary health care on Oekusi during the East Timor conflict; and as Medical Advisor for the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in Canberra. Dr Wenitong is a past President and founder of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and is a member of several state and national advisory committees.

Mark is committed to improving the health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia through community control. He is interested in primordial prevention, social and emotional well-being, early childhood, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chronic disease, microbiome, epigenetics, refugee health and prison health.

Prof Patricia Dudgeon

Professor Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people of the Kimberly area in Western Australia and works at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Western Australia.

Areas of research include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. Amongst her many commitments, she was a Commissioner of the Australian national Mental Health Commission, is a member of the Australian Indigenous Psychologist’s Association and co-chair of the ministerial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group.

She is currently the director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and a chief investigator on significant grants. Her books include Working Together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice 2014. She is a Fellow of the APS and has a commitment to social justice.

Prof Gracelyn Smallwood

Professor Smallwood comes from very humble beginnings, she grew up in a condemned house with a dirt floor, 18 siblings (14 of us in one family, five more when my father re-married) of whom I am the third eldest. My father was one of the Stolen Generation, taken from his family in the North Queensland town of Ayr and banished to the notorious Palm Island dormitories, for the ‘crime’ of having brown skin instead of black skin. She started working in the Health sector in 1972, when she became a registered nurse and later a registered midwife working with the Remote Emergency Nursing Services, which took her all over remote Australia delivering babies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with no benefits of modern technology.

In 1993, she was the first Indigenous Australian to receive a Masters of Science in Public Health for her work on HIV education in North Queensland Indigenous communities.

In October 2013 she was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia Queensland Community Award - Individual, in recognition of service to public health, in particular HIV AIDS, contribution to Australian Universities, and consultation to the World Health Organisation.

She is currently a Professor of Nursing & Midwifery/Community Engagement at CQUniversity in Townsville. In 2017, I was appointed as an RUOK? Ambassador, a suicide prevention charity in Australia.

She tells people “I am a Birrigubba, Kalkadoon and South-Sea Islander woman born in Townsville in 1951. I have been advocating against the racism and violation of human rights against my people for the past 45 years and prior to this my parents for 50 years, and my grandparents for another 50 years before that. I have dealt with almost every disease, both nationally and internationally, however I have never been able to come to terms with the ugly disease of racism.”

Dr Marshall Watson

Dr Watson is an Aboriginal (Noongar) Man and Psychiatrist, he has subspecialty qualifications in both Child and Adolescent and Forensic Psychiatry. His interests include psychotic disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, loss, grief, and trauma and working with youth who display problematic behaviours. He takes a holistic view to mental health matters and social and emotional wellbeing that is comprehensive, and patient-centred. He has a Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery, University of Western Australia, Australia, 2001.

Leilani Darwin

Leilani Darwin is the Head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience centre at the Black Dog Institute.

Leilani is already well known within the sector for her work and leadership in Suicide Prevention and Mental Health. She is a powerful advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led, culturally informed practices within mainstream services and will continue to inform and provide opportunities to not only build the evidence base for the multiple benefits of lived experience but will be working closely with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to develop their skills and ability to participate in key policy reform, program development and advisory roles across both Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Her leadership extends to participation in several National initiatives including the Prime Minister and Cabinet Suicide Prevention Taskforce, Lifeline Australia National Lived Experience Advisory Group along with several National and State-based research projects, policy reform and digital solutions.

Tom Brideson

Tom Brideson is a Kamilaroi/Gomeroi man born in Gunnedah north-west NSW and a member of the Red Chief Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Between 2007 and 2020, Tom was the State-wide Coordinator for the NSW Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program, a ground-breaking program that has embedded a new discipline into the mental health space in NSW.

He sits on multiple committees under the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to improve the health and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mr Brideson has published many articles regarding the mental health and related area workforces and advocates for the broad emerging mental health professional workforces across all health and human services.

In 2020 Tom was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia.

Reference documents

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, 2013

National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-23

CBPATSISP’s Indigenous Suicide Prevention Concordance

ATSISPEP Solutions That Work, 2017

Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, 2017

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration (Declaration)

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia