McGowan Government releases preliminary response to Aboriginal youth suicide reports

The McGowan Government today released its  preliminary response to the State Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of 13 children and young people in the Kimberley and the 2016 Message Stick Inquiry into Aboriginal youth suicide in remote areas.

The Statement of Intent outlines the McGowan Government’s unwavering commitment to a partnership approach to address the recommendations from the Coroner’s Inquest and Message Stick Inquiry.

Of the combined 86 recommendations included in both reports, the Government has fully accepted 22, accepted 33 in principle, has already implemented or started implementing 16 and is still considering the feasibility or implications of a further 11. Four of the Message Stick recommendations have been superseded by subsequent events.

The McGowan Government will be working with Aboriginal people to develop a whole-of-government reform agenda to address the recommendations, and a comprehensive response to the reports is expected by the end of the year.

The Government will co-design place-based initiatives in partnership with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, which will positively impact the livelihood of young Aboriginal people.

The McGowan Government is committed to addressing Aboriginal youth suicide, and a number of initiatives are included in this year’s State Budget that support Aboriginal youth wellbeing:

  • $6.5 million for the Aboriginal Community Connectors program to improve community safety and reduce community consequences of alcohol and other drugs and related ‘at risk’ behaviours;
  • Diversionary programs in the Kimberley, including the Kununurra PCYC ($2 million) and the West Kimberley Youth and Resilience Hub ($1.3 million);
  • $20.1 million for the North West Drug and Alcohol Support Program to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs in the Kimberley, Pilbara, and Mid-West;
  • Continued support for the work of the Mental Health Commission in reducing suicide risk in Western Australia via the Suicide Prevention: 2020 strategy ($8.1 million); and
  • A Kimberley Juvenile Justice Strategy ($900,000) to develop place-based prevention and diversion initiatives for young people across the Kimberley.

The Statement of Intent, which includes the Government’s preliminary response to the Coroner’s Inquest and Message Stick Inquiry, can be downloaded from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s website.

“Young Aboriginal people continue to take their own lives at an unfathomable rate. I extend my deepest sympathies to those families and communities that have been heartbroken by these tragic events,” said Deputy Premier Roger Cook.

“The issues are complex and it is clear that we need to develop a comprehensive reform agenda that is informed by the community, designed by the community and driven by the community.

“The Statement of Intent makes it clear that our Government is absolutely committed to addressing the recommendations of the Coroner’s Inquest and the Message Stick report, to deliver real, long-term positive change for Aboriginal people.

“The McGowan Government is determined to work across community and governments to ensure that this does not become another report that collects dust.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said, “It is beyond distressing to see report after report about young Aboriginal people who see their lives as so bleak that they see no other option but to take their own lives.

“The Statement of Intent underscores the Government will co-design services with Aboriginal people.

“We are committed to be a Government that listens to and works with Aboriginal people to make a real difference in this area.

“We are also determined to working with the Commonwealth Government and local groups in order to bring about a truly co-operative and collaborative approach to addressing this problem.”

Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said, “As are most Western Australians, I am deeply saddened by the terrible loss of so many young lives.

“All children and young people in Western Australia have the right to feel safe, loved and to have hope for their future. This Government is committed to walking alongside Aboriginal families to achieve this for their children.

“This is a complex issue and we are determined to make long-term changes for the wellbeing of current and future generations of Aboriginal children and young people in the State.”