About Us

"Jilya" means "my child" in Nyamal language: for this is about our children

Our name reflects our underlying purpose

“to provide a world in which our most vulnerable Indigenous children, people, and communities, can have at the very least, an equal opportunity to thrive”


The Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health Aboriginal Corporation is an Aboriginal Community Controlled not for profit organisation, registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006, and incorporated as a charity with the Australian Charity and not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

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

The Dr Tracy Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program was launched first 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 has continued to grow, naming 15 national recipients at our launch in September 2020 and a further 11 just twelve months later! Jilya is supporting TWENTY SIX future Indigenous psychologists in just over 12 months! Read about them here

Jilya has big aims, and we don’t apologise for them, nor do we believe they are unattainable.

The Jilya Institute is focused on four streams. Click the arrows or swipe below to read more about them

The Four Streams of Jilya

Jilya’s vision is to end suicide, 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, underpinned by the following four streams

Stream 1: Research Into Casual Pathways to Indigenous Suicide

Development of a robust national data set of unique causal pathways for Indigenous suicide and wellbeing to inform unique program design and evaluation methodologies.

Despite the world’s highest rates of child suicide there is still a lack of understanding around causal pathways for suicide. Causal pathways tell us ‘why’, which is a critical first step to program development and evaluation of outcomes.

Stream 2: Development and Training of Best-practice Approaches to Indigenous Mental Health

Determination of unique treatments of best practice for mental ill health, suicide behaviours, attachment related disorders, etc. for high-risk Aboriginal clients.

Currently, and despite the significantly high rates of suicide, estimated rates of trauma and mental ill health there are no established treatments of ‘best practice’ that have been empirically tested with Aboriginal clients.

Jilya aims to address this issue through research grants, and partnerships to fund a dedicated team of clinicians who will work to determine treatments of best practice for trauma, depression, attachment, etc. that run across the spectrum of mental health, suicide and arguably child protection, education and justice domains.

The overriding objective being that these clinicians will then be able to train ‘on the ground’ service providers in these treatments to ensure that there is best practice applied to those Aboriginal people at risk of suicide, mental health, justice, child protection sectors. The focus of Jilya will be an early intervention and prevention approach.

Stream 3: Training and delivery of community-based early intervention and prevention programs

Expand existing evidence-based intervention and prevention programs across whole communities via a train the trainer model to address entrenched and generationally high-risk communities.

This stream will involve the upskilling of services around intervention and prevention programs in train the trainer format, based on programs donated to Jilya through Dr Tracy Westerman’s business, Indigenous Psychological Services.

These ‘whole of (Aboriginal) community suicide intervention programs’ are the only programs to have demonstrated a measurable reduction in suicide risk factors across multiple language groups (Westerman & Sheridan, 2020) and are currently not available to our high-risk communities due an absence of funding.

Stream 4: Workforce Capacity - The Dr Tracy Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program

Ensuring the Australian workforce builds its capacity to address the extensive mental health needs in Aboriginal communities.

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
  • Study, research and work placement oppoprtunities

Jilya currently supports 26 scholarship students (which represents a potential increase of 12% of the current number of Indigenous Australian Psychologists!)

Statement of Need:

Tragically, Aboriginal Australians continue to be over-represented across every indicator of social disadvantage and inequity measures, including:

  • 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 robust Indigenous mental health prevalence data is an unacceptable gap and impacts directly on our capacity to undertake early intervention; to track program success and impacts and to present a workforce case. Jilya will address this via our successful Lotterywest grant which will develop a national data set for the first time!
  • Child protection: Aboriginal 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.
  • Educational 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.
  • 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.