The Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health, (“The Jilya Institute”, or “Jilya”) is an Aboriginal Community Controlled not for profit organisation, registered as a charity with the Australian Charity and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

Jilya was created in response to the 13 deaths of Aboriginal young people in the Kimberley, the subject of the 2019 Fogliani Coronial Inquiry. These deaths, and the continuing deaths of Aboriginal people by suicide, compelled Dr Tracy Westerman AM to act and do something to support improved access to culturally and clinically complex mental health services which could provide measurable outcomes for high risk communities.

Jilya’s vision is to reduce Indigenous suicides, build resilience and strengthen wellbeing in Indigenous Australians. We hope to achieve this through leading the development of culturally and clinically informed mental health and suicide prevention responses, and increasing the number of Indigenous Psychologists working in Australia, in our highest risk regional and remote communities.

Jilya World Suicide Prevention Day gala

On World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September 2022, The Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health (“Jilya”) will hold a Fundraising Gala Dinner to address the shocking rates of Indigenous child suicide in Australia which are amongst the world’s highest.

The heart of Jilya is the Dr Tracy Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program, commenced by Dr Westerman, AM in response to the voices of bereaved Indigenous parents and communities who were crying out for help and not able to access it.

Dr Westerman, a former Australian of the Year (WA), has long been considered a world leader in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention. It is fair to say that the scholarship and Jilya initiatives have captured the hearts and minds of Australia. Jilya’s mission is to #BuildAnArmy of Indigenous psychologists and seeing them working amongst our highest risk Indigenous communities. To date, the program is supporting and mentoring 26 Indigenous psychology students. We plan to increase this number as a result of the funds raised at this year’s Gala.

“Jilya” means “my child” in Nyamal: for this is about our children. It reflects the underlying vision of Jilya – to provide a world in which our most vulnerable Indigenous children can have at the very least, an equal opportunity to thrive.

The Jilya Gala brings people together on this issue.

Black, white; all Australians together for these are Australia’s children.

Together we can show that these lives matter, and they matter to all Australians equally.

All funds raised will go towards the Jilya Institute to support the advancement and mentoring of future Indigenous psychologists into Australia’s highest risk communities.


The Jilya Institute is committed to increasing the number of Indigenous Psychologists in Australia. This directly addresses the needs of Indigenous communities and families who continue to have a lack of access to clinically and culturally appropriate specialist services. This will provide the best opportunity our Nation has in addressing the escalating rates of Indigenous mental health and child suicides, which are now the highest in the world. Through the Dr Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship, Jilya intends to #BuildAnArmy of Indigenous psychologists.  The scholarship preferences those who have remote and rural connections and/or who wish to return to a remote or rural area to work in Indigenous communities upon the completion of their degree. The scholarship includes:

  • A $10,000 bursary (plus 17% admin) that can be used to support the student in a way that enables them to meet the rigorous demands that come with Psychology training
  • Mentoring and support of scholarship recipients via research, training and other networking opportunities

Why Do we need more Indigenous psychologists

Imagine having a child caught in the grip of  mental illness and there are no services to help. Imagine when you do find a service they struggle with the very basics of cultural understanding that the opportunity for healing is effectively lost”

Dr Tracy Westerman

The ‘system’ has been built by non-Indigenous people, to meet the needs  of non-Indigenous people, and is delivered to Indigenous people by, frequently, non-Indigenous people. It is therefore unsurprising that this is failing and the implications of doing nothing new or different are clear. Listen here to Dr Tracy Westerman speaking on ABCs “All In The Mind” on “Why we need more Indigenous Psychologists”

Our children deserve a better future.

Indigenous children die by suicide at 6 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. Our highest risk communities are consistently our most remote. Help us to #BuildAnArmy of Indigenous Psychologists to address the needs of these communities, where successive Governments have failed. Our country has now had generationally the highest child suicide rates in the world. The Dr Tracy Westerman AM Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program directly addresses the needs of bereaved Indigenous parents and communities by ensuring access to specialist clinical and cultural services into these regions.