“Jilya” means “my child” in Nyamal language: 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 Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health
(An Initiative of Indigenous Psychological Services)
Dr Westerman became motivated to address the unacceptably high rates of Indigenous child suicides in Australia and her own backyard, Western Australia. Triggered by the 13 deaths of indigenous children in the Kimberley that was the subject of the Fogliani Coronial Inquiry she felt compelled to act where Government had failed – that is, in providing access to mental health services that were both clinically and culturally appropriate and which could provide measurable outcomes for high risk communities. She launched the Dr Tracy Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program as a direct result of hearing the voices of decades of bereaved Indigenous parents and communities who were crying out for help not being able to access it.
The Scholarship Program quickly became assured and started to grow, so the next step was to ensure there was capacity to train not just Indigenous practitioners but any practitioner who wanted to be guided around the best possible practice to make a difference to the lives of our most vulnerable communities.
Jilya has big aims, but we don’t apologise for them, nor do we believe they are unattainable.
The Jilya Institute is focused upon FOUR major streams:
- Program Evaluation: This stream aims to ensure that programs are assisted to outcome evaluate their programs and ensure that this data is used in a way that clearly informs the content of programs; outcomes of interventions and best practice treatment focus;
- Treatments of best practice treatments: This stream will test treatments of best practice for mental health issues; suicide behaviours, criminogenics, attached related disorders etc
- Evidence based intervention programs. This steam will determine evidence based intervention and prevention programs based on the evidence based programs of Dr Westerman who has donated the Intellectual Property into Jilya. This will enable these programs to attract a greater level of fuding and be used to train service providers in high risk communities to deliver these programs at an ongoing level
- The Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program will ensure that the Australian workforce is at its full capacity to address the extensive mental health needs in Aboriginal communities.
A recently released two-year Western Australian state coronial investigation into the incidence of suicide among Indigenous children and young people in the Kimberley confirms what we already know – this is a region that continues to record among the highest rates of suicide anywhere in the world. The report is an appalling summation of the short lives and premature deaths of 13 people aged under 25 between November 2012 and March 2016.
The youngest was just 10 years old. Not even one had received a clinical mental health assessment.
This investigation provided a snapshot into one Region, however what we do know is that Indigenous suicide is becoming one of Australia’s most tragic human rights and social issues, with Indigenous Australian’s choosing death over life at an alarming rate.
And despite this growing tragedy we still have no nationally accepted evidence-based programs across the spectrum of early intervention and prevention activities.
Staggeringly, funded programs are not required to demonstrate that they are actually reducing mental health and suicide risk. In effect, if you are not measuring risk, you cannot claim prevention. There is no measurable outcomes to the millions being allocated to Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention and Jilya aims to change that. We need to build an evidence base to inform future practice and do so in a way that is measurable and irrefutable in terms of outcomes.
Despite the world’s best practice, evidence-based solutions being readily available here in Western Australia through the work of Nyamal woman, A/Professor Tracy Westerman of Indigenous Psychological Services, successive governments have failed to identify and implement effective solutions.
There are two tragedies here; the continued loss of beautiful young lives through suicide, and secondly, that efforts to fund an adequate response capable of applying the science of what prevents suicide not being sought as the solution.
Statement of Need:
Tragically, Aboriginal Australians continue to be over-represented across every indicator of social disadvantage and inequity measure. The Jilya Institute aims to address four core areas:
- Indigenous Suicide: The likelihood that Aboriginal people will die by suicide is six times greater compared to non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal children are tragically the highest risk group:
• 75% of child suicides between 2007 and 2011 were Aboriginal children.
• 80% of all youth suicides in 2004 to 2012 were Aboriginal youth, in 1991 this was 10%.
• The Kimberley region has one of the highest suicide rates in the world at 70 per 100,000 (overall national rate in Australia is 11, Guyana in South America is 41).
- Indigenous Mental Health: The absence of Indigenous mental health prevalence data is an unacceptable gap. Studies which exist either provide a ‘snapshot’ of
- Children protection overrepresentation: Indigenous children are vastly over-represented in the child protection system, comprising just 5% of the population but representing 56% of those in out of home care in Western Australia.
- Education outcomes: There is a national gap of around 15% in the attainment of Year 12 qualifications between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. The completion of Year 12 increasing employment opportunities by 40% and the established link between increased employment and lower rates of mental ill health.
- Suspension from school: Indigenous students comprise 5.6% of the school population according to the ABS, but comprise 25% of children who are suspended from school are Indigenous.
- Incarceration rates: Indigenous Australians represent 27% of those incarcerated in Australian prisons. This has doubled since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) in 1990 in which the rates of Aboriginal people in prisons was at 14% nationally.