A community-led approach to suicide prevention

  • CCC Coordinator onboarding smoking ceremony, Little Bay, Sydney, March 2023
    CCC Coordinator onboarding smoking ceremony, Little Bay, Sydney, March 2023
  • CCC Coordinator onboarding, Little Bay, Sydney, March 2023
    CCC Coordinator onboarding, Little Bay, Sydney, March 2023
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National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
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The first of its kind, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Culture Care Connect (CCC) program is an innovative, community-led approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience rates of suicide 2.4 times higher than other Australians. In 2021, suicide accounted for 5.3 per cent of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while the comparable proportion for non-Indigenous Australians was 1.8 per cent, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in remote and regional areas, there are significant barriers that reduce access and utilisation of mental health services, including experiencing culturally unsafe practices.

While reported statistics for suicide are particularly concerning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of the ongoing impacts of colonisation, racism, discrimination and intergenerational trauma. CCC seeks to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through self-determination and community-controlled development of suicide prevention networks and plans, co-designed aftercare services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health first-aid training. It is committed to overcoming the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reducing the prevalence of suicide and self-harm.

NACCHO has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care until June 2025 to rollout the program. This funding supports the:

  • establishment of 31 Community-Controlled Suicide Prevention Networks
  • establishment of Community-Controlled Aftercare Services
  • coordination and delivery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Training.

CCC has so far established 26 network sites and 27 aftercare sites across the country. The program sites have begun community consultation for network suicide prevention planning and coordination. Our Affiliates are leading jurisdictional coordination across each state and territory, including developing jurisdictional suicide prevention plans.

Initial feedback from CCC sites is that community involvement in every step of development, through consultation and co-design, is central to the program’s success. Co-design ensures that services are delivered for Community, with Community, by Community and means that each program site is unique to the priorities and needs of their Community. The program centres on self-determination and community-led action while ensuring national consistency.

So far, program sites have seen an increase in facilitation of local suicide prevention networks, including strengthening and engagement from mainstream services (such as police, hospitals and local services). Aftercare services have also seen increased uptake and engagement by community members when in crisis.

Another strength of the program is the development of workforce capacity and capability through resourcing and supports. Cultural and clinical supervision for aftercare staff is critical, as is a focus on self-care throughout the onboarding process. Communities of Practice provide opportunities for ongoing sharing of successes and challenges. Continuous quality improvement processes have been included in the program so that lessons learnt are incorporated as the program develops.

CCC is an exemplary example of how programs can be developed in alignment with the priority reforms of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

NACCHO is advocating to the Government for the program to be rolled out nationally and for expansion of the program and funding beyond June 2025.

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