Government response to Kimberley deaths report

Glenn Cordingley and Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
State Coroner Ros Fogliani.
Camera IconState Coroner Ros Fogliani. Credit: WA News

The State Government has released a preliminary plan to combat indigenous suicide after an inquest into the deaths of 13 Aboriginal children and young people across the Kimberley.

State Coroner Ros Fogliani last year held hearings in Perth, Broome, Fitzroy Crossing, Kununurra and Halls Creek and made 42 recommendations.

The deaths were investigated at the one inquest because there were similar circumstances that contributed to making them vulnerable to suicide.

Ms Fogliani found the cause of death for all 13 cases was hanging.

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The McGowan Government has now responded to recommendations made by Ms Fogliani and those from a report into indigenous suicide in remote areas known as the 2016 Message Stick Inquiry.

Of the combined 86 recommendations included in both reports, the State Government has fully accepted 22, accepted 33 in principle, has already implemented or started implementing 16 and is still considering the feasibility or implications of a further 11.

Four of the Message Stick recommendations have been superseded by subsequent events.

The State Government said it would be working with Aboriginal people to develop a whole-of-government reform agenda to address the recommendations.

A comprehensive response is expected by the end of the year.

The Government said it would co-design place-based initiatives in partnership with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, which would “positively impact the livelihood of young Aboriginal people”.

It pointed to a number of Budget initiatives that supported Aboriginal youth wellbeing, including $6.5 million to improve community safety and reduce community consequences of alcohol and other drugs and related “at-risk” behaviour delivered by “community connectors”.

Deputy Premier Roger Cook said the issues were complex and it was clear there was a need to develop a comprehensive reform agenda that was “informed by the community, designed by the community and driven by the community”.

Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial Working Group co-chair Rob McPhee welcomed the government response. “It’s great that all recommendations were accepted — a positive sign this tragic situation is being given the attention it deserves and needs,” he said.

“Community consultation is also a key part of the trial, particularly the community-led projects to tackle suicide that have been developed in consultation with the nine communities involved.”

The KASPTWG was established in 2017 to strengthen ties between the Federal Government and indigenous communities in the region.

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