WayAhead is proud to be celebrating National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week.
WayAhead believes that Aboriginal and Islander people’s whole-of-life approach to physical, social, emotional and cultural wellbeing including mental health, is the preferred best practice when delivering health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
An essential element of any culturally appropriate health service being provided is the inclusion of Indigenous people in the design and implementation of these programs.
WayAhead believes that more needs to be done in the areas of Indigenous health and wellbeing, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have significant health burdens in comparison with non-Indigenous Australians. Most notably, Indigenous Australians still have a life expectancy gap of almost 20 years. This year’s Closing the Gap report demonstrated little progress in life expectancy and infant mortality rates which WayAhead finds increasingly worrying and strongly encourages all political leaders to do more to help close the gap.
In particular WayAhead would like to see more done to combat Indigenous youth suicide and improve the environmental, social and economic factors of Indigenous Australians which can negatively affect their mental health.
Suicide rates for young Indigenous men far outnumber all other cultural and gender groups in Australia. A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the suicide rate of the Indigenous male aged groups between 15-35 were well over twice that for the non-Indigenous population.
While most environmental factors affecting Indigenous Australians are being worked on as part of the Closing the Gap initiative, governments of all levels should further support the initiative to ensure more progress is made and the gap is closed sooner. Environmental factors which can have negative impacts on a person’s health and wellness include low levels of income and education, poor housing, risks of violence, physical illnesses and health problems, unhealthy lifestyles, discrimination and lack of adequate transport.
WayAhead has committed itself to championing the mental health needs of the Indigenous Australian community through its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and the annual Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing award as part of October’s Mental Health Month.
The Diversity and Inclusion Strategy outlines how WayAhead will meaningfully support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with their health and wellbeing, which includes collaborating with existing services to further support their work, thereby ensuring work effort is not duplicated. The annual Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing award recognises communities and groups who have significantly improved their local community’s health and wellbeing through innovative services and programs. Applications for this year’s award are now open and can be accessed on the WayAhead website.
WayAhead welcomes the recent (June 2017) NSW budget announcement of strengthening specialist clinical mental health services in the Indigenous community with the inclusion of an additional $2.3 million this year for Aboriginal Mental Health Clinical leaders and statewide coordination. WayAhead hopes that this funding is not a one-off package and that funding for this service is permanently allocated in future NSW state budgets.
WayAhead acknowledges that it operates on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and pays its respects to elders past and present.
 3309.0 – Suicides, Australia, 2010 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides, Australian Bureau of Statistics
 Background information – Australian Indigenous Health Info Net – http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/other-health-conditions/mental-health/plain-language/background-information
 NSW Mental Health Reform $95M Fact Sheet 2017-18, NSW Government https://www.treasury.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/2017-06/20170618%20-%20NSW%20Budget%20-%20Mental%20Health%20Reform%20-%20Fact%20sheet.pdf