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Poor consultation over Aboriginal deaths

AAP logoAAP 12/09/2016

Indigenous people are being denied appropriate consultation, funding and co-ordination of services, a West Australian parliamentary inquiry examining Aboriginal youth suicides has been told.

The Education and Health Standing Committee is conducting the inquiry after a 10-year-old girl from the remote community of Looma, in the Kimberley region, took her own life in March.

Aboriginal Health Council WA chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said she was frustrated by the lack of consultation with indigenous people, adding Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations were best placed to offer services and support.

"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," she said.

"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."

More 24-hour services were also needed, Ms Nelson-Cox said.

Youth Affairs Council of WA chief executive Ross Wortham said governments needed to broaden their focus from funding clinical and acute services to funding preventative programs that addressed underlying issues such as housing, employment and family support.

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

"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."

Both organisations agreed there had already been too many inquiries and reports on Aboriginal health, and said while they saw value in a royal commission it should not be a priority.

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

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.

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