Working with Aboriginal communities in NSW

This section contains practical tools for professionals working with Aboriginal communities in New South Wales (NSW), to help support conversations about suicide. The resource covers different types of conversations for individuals, families and communities.

Working with Aboriginal communities in NSW - a resource for professionals

Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. Aboriginal people have developed and continue to display great resilience through interdependent relationships between kin, communities, connection to country, sea and spirit and the cyclical belief of life-death-life. Since colonisation, Aboriginal people and communities have experienced challenging events such as hardships and grief through loss of country, children and identity. Trauma from these losses can be passed down from one generation to the next. Trauma can also result from new experiences of racism and discrimination at work, school, or in the general community. Trauma, isolation and discrimination can leave some people and communities vulnerable to higher rates, and increased risk, of suicide.

Conversations Matter is a resource for professionals working with Aboriginal community members in NSW, Australia. The resource provides professionals with tools to talk about suicide in safe and supportive ways. It includes a range of information depending on whether professionals are talking generally in the community, to someone they are worried about, or are wondering how they could have a conversation with someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

The resource has been developed by a team of people including representatives from the Awabakal, Wonnarua, Gomeroi and Biripi Nations, Aboriginal health and community workers, Wiyiliin ta Aboriginal Child and Young Persons Counselling Service HNELHD, the Healing Foundation, the National Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council NSW, Nikita Ridgeway of Boss Lady Creative Design Agency, Mental Health Commission of NSW and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health.

Given the diversity of beliefs, customs and practices across Aboriginal communities, the project team has developed these resources based on a set of core principles. The core principles may be useful to consider alongside the separate fact sheets and podcasts - located in the left hand navigation menu.

Welcome video message from Todd Heard, Aboriginal psychologist from the Wonnarua Nation

Fact sheets

The following fact sheets have been developed for professionals working with Aboriginal communities in NSW to help support conversations if you are worried that someone is thinking about suicide, how to have a conversation with someone after a suicide and how to talk about suicide prevention in your community.

These fact sheets have been designed by Nikita Ridgeway, Boss Lady Creative Design Agency. The story behind the artwork is also available to download below.

Fact sheet: Yarning about suicide prevention in our community Fact sheet: Yarning about suicide prevention in our community (140728 KB)

Fact sheet: Yarning after a suicide Fact sheet: Yarning after a suicide (129339 KB)

Fact sheet: Yarning if someone is thinking about suicide Fact sheet: Yarning if someone is thinking about suicide (133207 KB)

Poster: The story behind the artwork Poster: The story behind the artwork (47578 KB)

Supporting information


To complement the resources, you can download a range of podcasts recorded by Luke Pearson, Indigenous X featuring:

Conversations about suicide - Dr Jackie Huggins Conversations about suicide - Dr Jackie Huggins (10050 KB)

Conversations about suicide - Jaelea Skehan Conversations about suicide - Jaelea Skehan (9532 KB)

Conversations about suicide - Aunty Lorraine Peeters Conversations about suicide - Aunty Lorraine Peeters (2612 KB)

Conversations about suicide - Richard Weston Conversations about suicide - Richard Weston (15105 KB)

Research

Background research and consultations that have informed the development of 
Conversations Matter resources for working with Aboriginal communities are provided below:

Report: Aboriginal Exec Summary Report: Aboriginal Exec Summary (1008 KB)

Report: Aboriginal focus group Report: Aboriginal focus group (1117 KB)

Report: Aboriginal stakeholder forums Report: Aboriginal stakeholder forums (1327 KB)

Acknowledgment

The Hunter Institute of Mental Health would like to acknowledge Todd Heard, Aboriginal psychologist, who led the research for these resources as well as acknowledging the expertise and support of the project working group, and local working groups in Tamworth, Newcastle and Taree. 

We would like to acknowledge our partners who made valuable contributions to the research and resource development. These individuals and organisations included representatives from the Awabakal, Wonnarua, Gomeroi and Biripi Nations, Aboriginal health and community workers, Wiyiliin ta Aboriginal Child and Young Persons Counselling Service HNELHD, the Healing Foundation, the National Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council NSW and the Mental Health Commission of NSW.

Thank you to Nikita Ridgeway from Boss Lady Creative Design Agency, Luke Pearson from Indigenous X, Dr Jackie Huggins AM, Aunty Lorraine Peeters, and Richard Weston for contibuting to and supporting the development of these resources.

We express our sincere gratitude to the stakeholders and community members who participated in the research. Finally, we would like to acknowledge and thank the staff at the Hunter Institute of Mental Health that have contributed and continue to support this project.