This week, I took part in a Workshop with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, in Canberra.
Attended by CEOs from every PHN, this workshop was a terrific opportunity to discuss the best practice approaches to mental health and suicide prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Some of the key elements the group discussed included the benefit of combining AOD (Alcohol and Drug) and Mental Health services and supports, the importance of community consultation and listening to and acting on feedback from the Aboriginal community.
In our region, we are working with the Aboriginal community to implement Aboriginal mental health and drug and alcohol initiatives and services. The community told us it was important to take a holistic approach and ensure services address both mental health and drug and alcohol needs for Aboriginal people.
Consultation with the Aboriginal communities in each local government area led to the formation of the Nepean Blue Mountains Aboriginal Advisory Committee for Drug & Alcohol and Mental Health in November last year - a joint initiative between ourselves and the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District. This group has 13 Aboriginal members from the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Penrith areas. The advisory committee meets monthly and helps us to shape our mental health strategy and plans for the local Aboriginal community.
Through our consultations, the clear message we have been given is that listening to feedback and taking action from it is paramount. As a result, we are adopting alternate methods of engaging with the Aboriginal community, particularly as we look for providers of relevant services in the local area that are needed to deliver the services identified in the Aboriginal community.
We will also be developing an Aboriginal Engagement Report Card to check in on how we are responding to the feedback we've received from the community.
Mental Health & AOD is a high priority for our region. I was really encouraged that this workshop, led by subject matter experts, reaffirmed that the progress we are making in this area is aligned with best practice methodology, and I look forward to sharing the outcomes from our work in this area.