CLOSE THE GAP DAY

Labor has used the tenth Close the Gap Day to draw attention to the unacceptably high rates of Indigenous mental illness and suicide.

Shadow Minister, Shayne Neumann, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience mental illness at nearly three times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians and are twice as likely to die by suicide.

“Close the Gap Day focuses attention on the need to increase the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to that of non-Indigenous people by 2030,” Mr Neumann said.

“Health cannot be addressed in isolation though. The risk of self-harm in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is compounded by poverty, entrenched disadvantage and inter-generational trauma.

“It is a national tragedy that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and young people feel they have no other option than to take their own life.

“It is time to make Indigenous health a priority, particularly if we are to Close the Gap in life expectancy.”

Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Senator Katy Gallagher said a Shorten Labor Government will commit to the National Health Commission’s target to reduce suicides by 50 per cent over the next ten years and develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Plan to improve mental health and prevent suicide of Indigenous Australians.  

“The best policy outcomes will be achieved if we partner directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and work with them to develop a culturally safe and respectful approach to reduce suicide rates,” Senator Gallagher said.

“It can be a struggle for any person with mental illness to access services but that is even more complicated when they are living in remote communities.

“By implementing a number of the Mental Health Commission’s recommendations, Labor will ensure that people experiencing mental illness can access better co‑ordinated services, both clinical and non-clinical.”

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs, Warren Snowdon said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities faced additional challenges.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities often feel incredibly isolated, with limited access to health and early intervention services,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Something is clearly wrong and if we want to prevent more young lives being lost, we must face up to the challenges of substance abuse, family violence, inadequate housing, unemployment and poverty – especially in remote communities,” Mr Snowdon said

“This needs to be undertaken community by community in partnership with service providers and governments at all levels to address the alarming rates of mental illness and suicide.”

THURSDAY, 17 MARCH 2016

Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations

This is a joint release with Shayne Neumann MP, Labor's Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Warren Snowden MP, Labor's Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs.