Sensitivity Warning

First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


This resource contains information about suicide which may be upsetting to some people.


This is the second guide intended to support Primary Health Networks (PHNs) working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to co-design and co-implement integrated approaches to suicide prevention. It follows Implementing Integrated Suicide Prevention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities: A Guide for PHNs (2018). 

Both are intended as companions to the Centre for Evidence and Implementation and Black Dog Institutes’ 2017 LifeSpan Implementation Framework: Implementing Integrated Suicide Prevention. This guide focuses on the intersecting subject of PHNs working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations under Indigenous governance in suicide prevention, while focusing specifically on working in ways that enhance self-determination.

Key Findings:

  • As noted in Solutions That Work, research among Canadian Indigenous communities clearly associates increasing measures of Indigenous governance of community life and culture, and self-governance institutions in communities with lower suicide rates among their young people.
  • Implicit in the theory of cultural continuity is the role of Indigenous governance as the source of potential reinvigoration, maintenance and transmission of culture and cultural practice.
  • Empowerment is key to communities’ broader ability to heal, revitalise and begin deep-rooted recovery processes from colonisation.This includes in practical ways such as addressing poor quality and overcrowded housing and high levels of unemployment. Such activity while not usually thought of as ‘suicide prevention’ can build and strengthen protective factors against suicide.
  • It needs to be ensured that local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people are employed at all levels of a PHN’s organisational structure including by direct recruitment and upskilling of existing Indigenous staff.
  • The critical difference is that co-design, like engagement agreements, involves a shift in power, responsibility and control so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers and communities are empowered as active partners in designing, shaping and resourcing suicide prevention services, programs and activities rather than being passive recipients.

This guide aims to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community empowerment after decades of challenge that started with colonisation and continues to this day in top down, paternalistic approaches to community development. Such approaches challenge Indigenous governance, diminish culture; de-stabilise communities, and affect the mental health and wellbeing of community members. In particular, this Guide proposes that these approaches are both an underlying cause of suicide as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population health issue and play a role in specific causes of individual suicide deaths.

The guide aims to counter disempowering approaches and their many impacts by focusing on and supporting Indigenous empowerment and governance as a non-negotiable element of, in particular, suicide prevention activity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. But more broadly, any activity that occurs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities.

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