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Hope on the horizon for Indigenous youth mental health

Community-led initiatives are supporting generation next

Australians are taking the initiative with youth mental health and suicide, creating and leading strategies that are already making an enormous difference. Join us as a panel of community heroes discuss their approaches to tackling youth mental health challenges in the 21st century.


Research on Australia's rates of youth mental health and suicide paint a grim picture. Almost a third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth – 15 to 19 year olds – meet the criteria for a probable serious illness, according to a 2017 national youth mental health report by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute. Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that Indigenous youth are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as non-Indigenous youth.

In an ever-changing 21st century world, what challenges do our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth face, and how can we support them to combat and hopefully overcome them? This expert panel will demonstrate that there are substantial grounds for optimism and a positive future. It brings together staff from the University of Sydney who specialise in mental health and members of our First Nation Communities who have already achieved success in tackling complex and common youth health challenges.

The panel will discuss the community-led responses underway to support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth –  including the importance of role models and ways to engage youth to address mental health challenges and improve suicide prevention.

Keen to keep the conversation going? Please stay join us for light refreshments after the event.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 23 October 2018.

The speakers:

  • Joel Thompson is a proud Aboriginal man and a professional rugby league player who developed the Mindset Project in 2017 after discovering his passion in helping others, beginning with his first workshops for the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre in Canberra.
  • Professor Ian Hickie is Co-Director, Health and Policy at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow (2018-22), having previously been one of the inaugural NHMRC Australian Fellows (2008-12).
  • Mark Spinks is the Founder and Chairman of the Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group who have a strong focus on working with youth around mental health and suicide prevention. Babana was recently recognised by Suicide Prevention Australia with the 2018 LiFE Award Winners for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Category.
  • Brooke Boney (moderator) is a Gamilaroi woman but she grew up in the New South Wales Hunter Valley with her five younger siblings and mother. She’s worked as a TV, radio and online journalist for SBS, NITV and the ABC and is currently Triple J's breakfast newsreader. She has done work with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which seeks to improve education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and RECOGNISE, an Indigenous organisation which campaigned for recognition in the constitution.

Image: artwork by Serika Shillingsworth

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