Yiriman National Recognition
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CULTURAL immersion programs, like the Yiriman project in the Kimberley could be rolled out in other communities as part of the Gillard government's national indigenous suicide prevention strategy.

The strategy, which is the first to specifically target Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people, would gather examples of best practice from around the country to determine how and where else they could be applied.

With $17.8m in new money, there would be a focus on early intervention and strengthening communities to reduce the rate of indigenous suicide, which is approximately twice that of the rest of the population.

Launching the strategy yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health Melissa Parke said Aboriginal girls were about six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal girls.

Under the strategy, which was first recommended by a Senate inquiry into suicide in 2011, local suicide prevention networks will work with local communities and feed information back to a centre for best practice. There will be a priority on community-led activities. 

"You would have to look at each initiative that's been successful and see what the factors were and whether they could be applied in other communities," Ms Parke said.

"It would have to be appropriate to those communities.

"What we want to see is more coordination, we want to see more empowerment of local communities to help themselves and we want to see this centre of best practice that will be able to share knowledge and information and research."

Ms Parke cited bereavement support services in Western Australia's Pilbara and Kimberley regions and the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre's Yiriman project as examples of successful suicide prevention programs which could be adapted elsewhere.

The Yirriman project focuses on teaching Aboriginal youth about their culture as they learn ways to address problems like substance abuse, self harm and contact with the law.

KALACC's Wes Morris said increasing the resilience of people at risk by making them feel part of a strong culture had been method extensively used in Canada and had helped reduce suicide.

"The concept, the thought of suicide won't come into your head if you have that whole continuity of tradition and culture," Mr Morris said.

He said KALACC had applied to Mental Health Minister Mark Butler for $600,000 in additional funding to expand Yiriman in December but was still waiting for a response.

Aboriginal Fremantle Dockers AFL player Michael Johnson, who was at the strategy launch yesterday, said he had seen a lot of young indigenous people take their lives. "You never want any young person to take their lives for any reason, so if they can get a plan set up and the program to help these indigenous people out there in the communities, we'll all get something out of it," he said.