Fri 22 July 2022

 A story from ACT Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Working Group

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Group on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health initially commenced operating on 4 July 2019, with a membership of 10 representative local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community peoples. Since its inception the Working Group has been co-chaired by Mr Jim Castro and Aunty Lydia George. Working Group membership has also included Ms Tanya Keed, Chairperson of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Ms Leah House, Elected Body Member and Spokesperson for Indigenous Health, Dr Matilda House, Ngambri Elder and Leader, Ms Joyce Graham, Manager of Indigenous Health, Canberra Health Services, Ms Kristie Simpson, Manager of Indigenous Health Liaison Officers, Mental Health, Justice and Alcohol and Drugs Services, and Ms Kristen Franks, Mental Health Mob. 


Since 4 July 2019 the Working Group has met monthly to consider and to give appropriate advice to the ACT Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing and the ACT Health Directorate concerning culturally appropriate Indigenous suicide prevention and mental health strategies, as well as to give guidance as to the actual implementation of these strategies.

Since 4 July 2019 this Working Group has specifically considered and made a number of recommendations regarding a new culturally appropriate integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Postvention and Aftercare Service for the ACT, the first of its kind in Australia; the need for a new culturally appropriate ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Care and Healing Service, the first of its kind for the ACT; and a new culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Train the Trainer Program. 


The Working Group has also put together a Workplan for the Group, and is also developing an appropriate ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy. 

Following an ACT procurement and tendering process, Thirrili Limited has recently been contracted to provide the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Postvention and Aftercare Service, in partnership with Wayback Support Services within the Woden Community Services Centre. 

Following an initial get together with Thirrili and the Co-Chairs of the Working Group in Canberra on Wednesday 1 June this year, the Working Group had an excellent meeting with Ms Annette Vickery, Chief Executive Officer of Thirrili Limited, Ms Rachael Schmerl, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Thirrili Limited, and Ms Robyn Bowery, Executive Director of Woden Community Services, on Wednesday 8 June this year to further discuss the way forward for the development of the new Service in Canberra.

The Working Group has invited the CEO of Thirrili, Annette Vickery, to be a keynote speaker at the ACT Indigenous Community Forum on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health to be held at the Yarramundi Cultural Centre in Canberra on Friday 22 July this year. Ms Vickery has agreed to talk about the new ACT Indigenous Suicide Prevention Service with members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community at the Community Forum, which is expected to be attended by 70 participants.


Thirrili has also been invited to nominate one of its staff members to attend the culturally appropriate Indigenous Suicide Prevention Train the Trainer Program, along with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, to be held at the ACT Health Directorate in Canberra for 3 days from Wednesday 27 July this year.

Neville Perkins,
Convenor, ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Group on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health.
30 June 2022

Photo description: Left to right back row: Reinette McFarland Assistant Director - Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Division, Stephen Smith - Regional Coordinator NSW, ACT, VIC & TAS Thirrili, Rachael Schmerl – Deputy CEO Thirrili, Uncle Jim Castro and Aunty Lydia George - Co-chair, ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Working Group, Paul Russell Manager Mental Health WCS, Pam Boyer Director – Disability, Mental Health and Aged Care WCS, Alice Currie Marketing and Communications Coordinator Thirrili, Annette Vickery Thirrili CEO Neville Perkins – Convenor, ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Working Group