National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and World Indigenous Suicide Prevention conferences give voice to those most affected by suicide
Over 500 delegates from across Australia and the world gathered in Perth for the 2nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention conference, and the 2nd World Indigenous Suicide Prevention conferences. Held back-to-back between November 20 to 23, the conferences brought together Indigenous community members from across the globe with policy makers and researches to share experiences and collaborate on solutions that work in suicide prevention.
The day before the conferences began (November 19), the World Indigenous Youth Cultural Exchange Day was held at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. After a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, and dance performance, Indigenous youth participants from around the world joined Culture is Life’s Culture Squad Ambassadors for tours to several culturally significant locations on Noongar country.
The 2nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference culminated with the delegates presenting a number of recommendations. One recommendation states the first step in suicide prevention is a recovery and healing process for community. Attached are some of the recommendations that were made at the conferences. The final recommendations will be presented to government in the coming weeks.
“Our story is not just about Australia but a global one as the evidence shows that other countries Indigenous suicide rates are similar to ours – about twice that to the mainstream population,” said Conference Patron and keynote speaker, Tom Calma.
“Recovery from colonisation is our globally shared agenda and by meeting and discussing the issues, challenges and potential solutions we know we will learn of what’s succeeded globally. We believe that suicide prevention strategies and initiatives are best addressed by those most affected.”
Hosted by the Centre of Best Practice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, UWA, both conferences were designed to allow Indigenous people the ability to own and direct the discussions taking place. The gathering featured strong representation from Indigenous leaders from across community, government, research, and services sectors. Minister Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Health, National and jurisdiction Mental Health Commission officials and the Canadian High Commissioner were all in attendance. Noongar Elders also attended, four of which were conference ambassadors, with more Elders coming from other countries, including New Zealand, the USA and Canada.
Several keynote panel discussions were held over three days focussing on the topics of ‘Setting the Scene’, ‘Emerging Issues’, ‘Community Based Solutions’, ‘Going Forward’, and ‘Partnerships and Collaborations’.
Keynote speakers included Professor Pat Dudgeon, Professor Tom Calma, Helen Milroy, Pat Turner, Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, Rebecca Johnson, Ethan Taylor, Rob McPhee, Professor Len Collard, Joe Williams, Dion Tatow, Dr Kahu MCkintlock (NZ), Joseph Sewell (NZ) Prof Linda Nikor (NZ), Dr Gayle Morse (US), Sade ‘Heart of the Hawk’ Al (US), Deanna Ledoux (Canada), Professor Malcolm King (Canada), Dr Alexandra King (Canada) and Anna Betty Achneepineskum (Canada).
Each day featured several specific talking sessions and workshops within the key topic streams of ‘Community Based Solutions’, ‘The Importance of Community Partnerships’, ‘Lived Experience’, ‘Date Sovereignty’, ‘LGBTIQ + SB’, ‘Youth’, ‘The Role of Cultural Practices’ and ‘Healing and Recovery’.
The opening of the international conference on November 22 at Scarborough Amphitheatre featured a sharing of culture, Australian and international, including dances performed by people from Canada’s Ojibwa tribe, New Zealand Maori, Seneca Territory USA, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and those from Whadjuk Noongar country.
An Evening Workshop on the final day featured a discussion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ people about experiences and perceived gaps in service delivery, with a focus on designing better outcomes for social and emotional wellbeing.
“The conference focussed on groups such as youth and those from the LGBTIQ community, and people representing those groups were on our committee, there were strong streams throughout the conferences on these topics and we are honoured to provide this opportunity for people from those groups to come to a safe cultural space, share their knowledge, and listen to others,” said Pat Dudgeon.
An important theme that resonated strongly across the two conferences was the importance of cultural connection to social and emotional wellbeing, as well as the importance of preventive and culturally aware support when it comes to supporting people who are at risk, particularly those who may have recently experienced the loss of a person close to them through suicide.
“This was a truly unique gathering that featured plenty of inclusive, safe and robust discussion, it was deeply encouraging to see the range of experiences shared as well as the strong spirit of collaboration and partnership formed over the three days to address the debilitating and far-reaching issue of disproportionate rates of suicide being experienced by Indigenous communities both at home and abroad.”
For more details on the conference, see http://ispc2018.com/.