'Change coming' amid mental health funding

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt is looking at fast-tracking suicide prevention programs.
Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt is looking at fast-tracking suicide prevention programs.

Young Indigenous community leaders say change is coming after the federal government has committed an extra $3 million to efforts to prevent young people from taking their own lives.

The young leaders met with Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt, Indigenous elders and mental health experts in Perth on Friday, to discuss fast-tracking grassroots suicide prevention efforts.

The meeting was convened after some Indigenous young people took their own lives in recent weeks, including in Western Australia.

Kununurra youth leader Montana Ahwon and Broome youth leader Jacob Corpus say the discussion was much-needed and that they are glad to have had the chance to share their views and insights.

"I felt like I've been heard," Ms Ahwon told reporters on Friday.

"(Now) we can put ourselves out there and get work done, and start working towards solutions and strategies and working with our brothers and sisters, our nieces and our nephews.

"There is change coming."

Ms Ahwon and Mr Corpus will be funded to be formal ambassadors for mental health in the Kimberley region as part of the new measures.

The government is also spending $2.32 million over two years to fast-track the rollout of a school-based mental health program developed by Beyond Blue in the Kimberley and Pilbara, Mr Wyatt said on Friday.

Another $1.5 million will be give to youth mental health organisation Headspace over two years to lead the development of a social media campaign, produced by young Indigenous people.

It will be focused on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and encouraging people to seek support when they need it.

Headspace will also get $360,000 over four years to expand its ambassadors program, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Mr Wyatt said the money will help put different approaches into place, but is only just the start of the government's response.

He said when young people take their own lives it has a devastating impact on their families and communities.

"The hole that is left emotionally is the question why and that is always the hardest issue to deal with," he said.

"What we have to do is look at what are the opportunities, what is the hope, what is the love we can extend, what is the arm around the shoulder that we can extend," he told reporters.

Elder Aunty Elizabeth Hayden said if Australians do not feel compassion for the situation, there there is not enough humanity.

"There needs to be a process of making Australia humane again. I believe Australia has lost its sense of humanity and it's time for Australia to change," she told reporters.

Australian Associated Press