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Professor Pat Dudgeon responds to the Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan

Professor Pat Dudgeon responds to the Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation

6 August 2021: Professor Pat Dudgeon, Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, welcomed the release yesterday of the Commonwealth Closing The Gap Implementation Plan, and its strong focus on suicide prevention.

“The unacceptable rate of suicide in our communities is a consequence of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, continuing social disadvantage and systemic racism,” Professor Dudgeon said. “It is encouraging to see the Government’s acknowledgement of the intergenerational trauma experienced by the Stolen Generations, their families and communities, and its effect on health and wellbeing. The new investment of $378.6 million in a redress scheme, although it is limited to those removed from Commonwealth Territories, is important recognition of the continuing impact of this history.”

Professor Dudgeon praised the commitment in the Implementation Plan, and in May’s Federal Budget, to the central role of Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) in funding and delivering social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention programs, saying this would ensure responses were closely aligned to community needs. The 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) report, Solutions That Work, had shown conclusively that Indigenous governance and leadership was essential to effective suicide prevention programs, she said.

“It is pleasing that the Government is adopting an approach which we identified as essential in the ATSISPEP findings,” said Professor Dudgeon. “True partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is about ensuring self-determination. This respects their expertise and leadership and, is the key to positive community empowerment and change.”

Professor Dudgeon said it would be important to ensure continuing accountability for the commitments made in the Implementation Plan. “I look forward to thorough and transparent reporting by the Government of its progress towards these important objectives,” she said. 

For more information or to request an interview with Professor Pat Dudgeon please contact: 

Julie Robotham: julie.robotham@uwa.edu.au or 08 6488 6925


About suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2020):

  • Suicide accounts for 6% of all deaths among Indigenous people (vs 2% non-Indigenous).
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Indigenous males (vs 10th non-Indigenous). It is the 7th leading cause of death for Indigenous females (vs 23rd non-Indigenous).
  • One-third of all Indigenous child deaths (ages 5 to 17) are suicides.
  • 23% of all suicide deaths in Australian children (ages 5 to 17) are Indigenous children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples embrace a holistic concept of mental and physical health within a broader context of social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB). This recognises the interconnectedness of physical and mental health with spiritual and cultural factors and connection to Country, community and traditions.
The lasting impacts of colonisation have resulted in intergenerational trauma and social and economic disadvantage at individual, family and community levels. This can result in multiple stressors such as unresolved grief and loss, trauma and abuse, domestic violence, removal from family, substance misuse, family breakdown, cultural dislocation, racism and discrimination, which challenge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Trauma, grief and loss as well as alcohol and substance use are key factors in Indigenous suicide deaths. Healing programs and services to promote social and emotional wellbeing are essential components of a culturally safe Indigenous suicide prevention response.

About the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP)
The CBPATSISP was established in 2017 to develop and share evidence about effective suicide prevention approaches for Indigenous people and communities.
Building on the foundation of the earlier Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP), the CBPATSISP influences Indigenous suicide prevention policy, practice and research by promoting access to evidence and resources and through advocacy.
The work of the CBPATSISP is centred on the rights of Indigenous people and communities to self-determination, and the critical importance of cultural responses to distress alongside clinical approaches.
The CBPATSISP is a Commonwealth Government-funded consortium led by The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia, with partners The Healing Foundation, Telethon Kids Institute, Menzies Institute for Medical Research and Health InfoNet.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, you can contact your local Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation or

  • Lifeline: 131 114
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyondblue 1300 22 46 36
  • Q Life 1800 18 45 27,
  • Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling 1800 01 10 46
  • The National Indigenous Critical Response Service 1800 80 58 01
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