Life Matters for Koori Youth in the Western Riverina

Life Matters photo


Above - artwork by a participant of Life Matters for Koori Youth

Karl Wiener, mental health services coordinator of Murrumbidgee General Practice Network, says: 'Our program is about educating community members on how to talk with confidence about suicide prevention. Action Area 3 [community resilience] is a particularly high priority - to educate youth in the Koori community the whole community must be engaged.'

This joint project between the Murrumbidgee Division of General Practice and the Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service aims to address self-harming and suicidal behaviour by Indigenous youth within the communities of Western Riverina, NSW. This project is managed by the Murrumbidgee General Practice Network.

Aims

The aim of Life Matters for Koori Youth in the Western Riverina is:

  • to improve community awareness and attitudes to suicide prevention in 14 to 25-year-old Koori people via the SPLASH program (Suicide-Prevention-Listening-Asking-Safety-Help)
  • to train community workers to better identify people at risk and provide support.
Duration

Commenced in 2007.

Location

This is a local community program that serves the Koori people in the Western Riverina (NSW).

Model

The experiential approach taken by the Koori Youth model differs from other suicide prevention education models in its 'hands-on' nature. Following education of key members of the Koori community, the program then seeks to educate 14-25 year old art students. The experiential approach actively engages participants, and as they become more involved they feel confident to take part in constructive discussion about suicide with their peers.

Activities

The Life Matters program consists of:

  • steering committee with representatives from the local police, education institutions, members of the Koori community, and primary care providers
  • education for the community. This includes first-aid in suicide prevention designed within an Indigenous context.
  • a SPLASH program. Indigenous high school art students participate in an experiential suicide prevention program, which is art-focused and fun.
  • artwork from the experiential program. These are later developed into posters and badges that are given to other Koori youth and members of the steering committe.
  • community awareness workshops to provide parents, elders, uncles and aunties with suicide prevention information.
Evaluation

Evaluation of the project involves:

  • feedback from steering committee member.s
  • interviewing community workers who participate in the training progra.
  • feedback from Koori youth who participate in the SPLASH program.
Life Matters profile pic 
Above - artwork by a participant of Life Matters for Koori Youth
Lessons learned
  • Experiential learning for youth may require more resources than traditional learning models, but produces better outcomes.
  • Art is an effective medium to communicate with the Indigenous community, often more so than text heavy information.
  • Training and retention of key staff can be a resource challenge.
Project partners

Members of the steering committee:

  • members of the Koori communities
  • members of the Murrumbidgee General Practice Network
  • local school representatives and director of education
  • Indigenous community liaison officer
  • police.

Referral pathways:  

  • crisis counsellors
  • Lifeline
  • Kids Help Line
  • youth refuges
  • women refuges
  • elders in the communities
  • GPs and allied health workers.
More information

Email Karl Wiener, mental health services coordinator, at the Murrumbidgee General Practice Network at mgpn@murrumbidgee.net.au