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Empowering First Nations’ Mental Health Support: Yawuru and Bunuba Jarndu Woman Vicki McKenna Wins SPA Award

Sam JonesBroome Advertiser
Vicki McKenna, far right, with Amy Miller-Porter, Clinton Schultz and Nathan Meteoro.
Camera IconVicki McKenna, far right, with Amy Miller-Porter, Clinton Schultz and Nathan Meteoro. Credit: Supplied

A trailblazing Yawuru and Bunuba Jarndu woman who leads an Indigenous-focused suicide prevention team within the Black Dog Institute has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Vicki McKenna, a Yawuru and Bunuba Jarndu woman from Broome, won the Priority Populations Award from Suicide Prevention Australia, recognising her initiatives to address, prevent and respond to suicidal behaviours within Indigenous groups.

As the Head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Network at the Black Dog Institute, Vicki has been committed to giving control of mental health support to First Nations communities themselves.

Her work was pivotal in the launch of the medical research institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Portal.

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The portal facilitates partnerships between organisations and lived experience community members.

Speaking after the award, Ms McKenna said developing successful and culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention programs was contingent on listening and partnering with communities to understand their perspective.

“The lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is crucial in creating culturally appropriate and effective mental health and suicide prevention services, programs and resources,” she said.

“Currently, in Australia, there is a lack of shared understanding in the broader mental health sector of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience expertise looks like, and how successful consultation with these voices can be achieved. We aim to change this.”

Vicki, a trained counsellor and a child psychotherapist will now enter the national SPA LiFE award.

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