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Indigenous suicide prevention program named finalist in national awards

The University of Western Australia’s Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention has been named one of 18 finalists in the Community Champion category of the Shaping Australia Awards.

Led by Professor Pat Dudgeon, the work of the Centre focuses on the rights of Indigenous people and communities to self-determination, and the critical importance of cultural responses to distress alongside clinical approaches.

Professor Dudgeon said mainstream mental health programs largely did not work in addressing Indigenous suicide, because the circumstances were very different.

“We know that suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is twice as high as for other Australians, and for our young people it is higher still,” she said.

“We are much more likely than other people to experience poverty, homelessness and other forms of disadvantage and we encounter racism, both systemic and in everyday interactions. These challenges might seem overwhelming, but our work shows the solutions.”

Professor Dudgeon said culture, community and self-determination were central to responses that empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and fostered pride and resilience.

“These are not just words; they are powerful, proven concepts that save lives,” Professor Dudgeon said.

“As well as our programs, we encourage new suicide prevention models and promote community programs that are working well, creating a knowledge base for advocacy and positive action.

“Our Centre connects with Aboriginal communities nationally and also in our local region, on Noongar Boodjar in the Perth area, collaborating with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, to put these principles into action.”

Launched in September, the Shaping Australia Awards are an initiative of Universities Australia in partnership with The Australian newspaper.

UA chief executive Catriona Jackson congratulated the finalists for their “solutions-driven approaches to real challenges”.

“We look forward to showing these exceptional finalists to the Australian community over the coming months,” she said.

The Community Champion Award recognises life-changing community service.


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

  • 13YARN: 13 92 76
  • 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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