Mental health and suicide prevention policies and frameworks
Balit Murrup means ‘strong spirit’ in the Woi-wurring language. Balit Murrup’s objective is to reduce the rates of suicide, mental illness and psychological distress and so reduce the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal Victorians and the general population. The framework is a key commitment under Victoria’s 10-year mental health plan.
The Council of Australian Governments Health Council agreed on the First National Mental Health Plan (1993–1998) in 1993. The current iteration is the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (2017–2022). Known as the Fifth Plan, it has 8 priority areas: the fourth area is ‘improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention’.
The Korin Korin Balit-Djak plan is a companion document to Balit Murrup. It details the ways in which the Victorian government will work with Aboriginal communities, community organisations, other government departments and service providers to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal Australians in Victoria.
The Mental Health, Inquiry Report examines the influences and effects of mental health on Australians and outlines priority reforms related to prevention, early intervention, experience with health and related services and improving psychological health in the workplace. The report was prepared by the Productivity Commission and published in November 2020.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (NATSISPS) was released in 2013 in response to the June 2010 report of the Inquiry into Suicide in Australia by the Senate Affairs References Committee: The Hidden toll: suicide in Australia. The NATSISPS was developed by Indigenous experts and leaders in mental health and suicide prevention as a strategic response to suicide among the Indigenous population.
National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017–2023
This is a framework for social and emotional health service provision that would be culturally appropriate for Indigenous people, whether they were attending an Indigenous-specific or mainstream service. It was designed to support the implementation of the Fifth Plan and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023.
The framework was developed by the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales and NSW Ministry of Health in collaboration with people with lived experience of suicide attempt and suicide bereavement. Government agencies, mental health organisations and experts in suicide prevention were also involved in the collaboration. Implemented in 2018, this framework commits the NSW government to work alongside the Australian Government, Primary Health Networks, Local Health Districts, and community managed organisations.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policies and frameworks
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework aims to provide a model for higher education providers to successfully implement Indigenous curriculums. It provides clear learning outcomes and cultural capabilities that could be applied widely across tertiary learning contexts and aims to prepare graduates across health professions to provide culturally safe health services to Indigenous Australians.
The Cultural Respect Framework was developed for the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Standing Committee. This framework commits the Australian Government and all states and territories to embedding cultural respect principles into their health systems. This framework is intended for the government health sector, health departments and hospital and primary health care settings to guide strategies to improve culturally respectful services.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is an evidence-based policy framework designed to guide policies and programs to improve Indigenous health. The Australian Government produced the plan in partnership with Indigenous people, community groups, and peak bodies.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework aims to increase workforce opportunity for Indigenous Australians in the Queensland Government health sector in clinical, non-clinical and leadership roles. Through building a supported health workforce that has culturally safe and responsive health care, positive health outcomes for Indigenous Australians can be achieved.
This practical resource describes best-practice preventative primary health care for Indigenous Australians. The guidelines were developed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Key agreements and inquiries
Bringing them home: report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families
The Bringing Them Home report was published in 1997. The inquiry was commissioned in 1995 to:
- trace the past laws, practices and policies that resulted in the separation of Indigenous children from their families
- examine the adequacy of and the need for any changes in current laws, practices and policies relating to services and procedures currently available to those Indigenous peoples who were affected by the separation
- examine the principles relevant to determining the justification for compensation for persons or communities affected by such separations
- examine current laws, practices and policies with respect to the placement and care of Indigenous children and advise on any changes required taking into account the principle of self-determination by Indigenous peoples.
The Indigenous Evaluation Strategy was released in October 2020 and provides a framework to help Australian Government agencies to put Indigenous people at the centre of the evaluations of policies and programs that affect them.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap aims to enable Indigenous people and governments to work together to overcome the inequality they experience so they can achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians. The agreement was developed in genuine partnership between Australian Governments and Indigenous peak organisations.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap has 16 targets across the following outcome areas: education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and languages.
In 2002, the Council of Australian Governments commissioned the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision to develop, and regularly report on, a set of indicators that could show the impact of policies and programs designed to improve Indigenous peoples’ standard of living. The most recent report was released in 2020.
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was established in response to growing public concern over deaths of Indigenous people in custody. The final report made 339 recommendations about procedures for Indigenous Australians in custody as well as social factors including youth policy, alcohol, health, employment, housing, land rights, self-determination and reconciliation. The 1991 report highlighted the mental health of offenders and the over-criminalisation of Indigenous Australians as key factors contributing to suicides and other deaths in custody.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2013 in response to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia. The Royal Commission released its findings in 2017. The report suggested that more than 6,800 children had been sexually abused in institutions across Australia, including 985 people who identified as Indigenous.
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was established in 2016 to inquire into the treatment of children detained in detention facilities and child protection in the Northern Territory. The inquiries revealed accounts of abuse against children in youth detention. The Final Report contains 147 findings and makes 227 recommendations. It outlines a long-term reform agenda to the Northern Territory’s child protection and youth justice systems.
Key bodies and government agencies
Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) Clearing House
The CBPATSISP Clearing House has been designed to encourage and support the development and implementation of culturally safe and evidence-informed suicide prevention programs, services and research in Indigenous communities across Australia. The Clearing House is a repository for programs, services, guidelines, resources and research that are considered to be best practice in suicide prevention.
The Department of Health is responsible for developing and delivering policies and programs and advise the Australian Government on health, aged care and sport. Among other things, it is trying to strengthen the mental health system and to improve the health of Indigenous Australians through the Indigenous Australians' Health Program.
Established in March 2020, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia is the new national Indigenous Australian leadership body for social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. It is governed and controlled by Indigenous experts and peak bodies that work in these areas to promote excellence in mental health care. Gayaa Dhuwi is responsible for the renewal of the NATSISPS and works closely with the CBPATSISP and the Suicide Prevention Taskforce.
The Lowitja Institute, named after Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG, is an Indigenous health research organisation committed to high quality research, knowledge translation and the support of Indigenous health researchers.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency has overarching responsibility for implementing the Closing the Gap targets. It develops and coordinates advice for policies, programs and service delivery for Indigenous Australians.
The National Mental Health Commission provides evidence and advice on improving Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention systems. This is done through its core function of monitoring and reporting mental health outcomes.
Other research resources
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet commenced in 1997 as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Clearinghouse. The website houses research, data collection, synthesis of data and other information obtained from academic, professional, government and other sources.
The Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse is a national resource for Indigenous justice. The aim is to promote discussion and disseminate relevant Indigenous justice information to government policy makers and those working in Indigenous justice areas. The website provides access to publications, databases and research.