First Australians in remote communities will receive additional support through a Coalition Government initiative that will provide school attendance officers and jobseekers with specialised training in Indigenous mental health first aid.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, recently approved funding of $2.4 million to roll out the training to all Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) school attendance officers.
The funding will also see the training rolled out to Community Development Programme (CDP) jobseekers, with an initial focus on 15 high-risk locations.
Minister Scullion announced the initiative in Broome today, a community located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia that has very high rates of Indigenous suicide.
“We know early intervention is a key to preventing suicide and self-harm,” Minister Scullion said.
“Tragically, there is still a widespread stigma associated with mental health and this is preventing many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from seeking and accessing early help. The roll out of this tailor-made mental health first aid training in remote communities will help to turn this around and ensure early intervention.”
The Indigenous Mental Health First Aid training course is a two-day intensive programme that provides participants with an understanding of mental illness, an insight into the minds of sufferers and knowledge about how to provide immediate assistance.
The Coalition’s investment will ensure thousands of people in remote communities across the country receive this training and so are better able to respond to situations where people are at risk of self-harm.
“We have around 450 local RSAS school attendance officers and this will equip them with the skills they need to identify the early warning signs of mental health issues and the knowledge about the most appropriate response for the families and children they work with every day,” Minister Scullion said.
“We know there can often be mental health impediments to getting adults to work. The roll out of Indigenous Mental Health First Aid training to CDP jobseekers will, in the first year, involve around 210 training forums for around 3,150 people.
“This will not only improve mental health outcomes in remote communities, but help to make people more job-ready to take up local employment opportunities.”
The investment in Indigenous Mental Health First Aid training will complement the Government’s $1 million Critical Response Project launched late last year.
The Critical Response Project has initially been focused on Western Australia – and in particular, the Kimberley region. It is better coordinating support services for Indigenous people and families affected by suicide and ensuring those services are delivered in a more culturally competent way.
The rate of suicide for Indigenous Australians is almost twice that of non-Indigenous people. That rate goes up to five times as high for young Indigenous people and hospitalisation rates for intentional self-harm have increased by 48 per cent in recent years.
The $2.4 million for the Indigenous Mental Health First Aid training is funded out of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.