Lifeline Central West's Yarn Up hopes to end mental health issues

Pilot project: The Yarnup Confidential strategy would employ and train Aboriginal staff, with 70 per cent of the annual funding applied to full employment and training costs. Photo: Taylor Jurd.
Pilot project: The Yarnup Confidential strategy would employ and train Aboriginal staff, with 70 per cent of the annual funding applied to full employment and training costs. Photo: Taylor Jurd.

A national charity is calling on the government to help address high rates of Aboriginal and regional suicide, and domestic violence, which are reaching epidemic proportions.

Lifeline Central West has developed the Yarnup Confidential strategy, but to get the pilot project up and running it needs State and Federal government funding support.

It is requesting $2.5 million per year over five years, to employ and train Aboriginal staff, with 70 per cent of the annual funding applied to full employment and training costs. 

Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson said it’s time leaders and the wider community got on board with the strategy.

“You can’t claim that you’re running a simple society and allow this amount of carnage to exist,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said Yarnup is about training Aboriginal staff to help break the cultural divide.

“It’s about using some Lifeline (telephone) structure… but it’s also about going into the community where the problem exists,” he said.

The strategy will be a division of Lifeline Central West and the operation will be based in Dubbo with outreach centres in Broken Hill and Moree.

This is not the first time Mr Ferguson has tried to get Yarnup Confidential up and running.  In 2015 he wrote to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to set out the strategy. 

Through Dubbo’s Lifeline Central West, community engagement is already occurring, but no where near the size needed to stop the issue, Mr Ferguson said.

“We’re talking about a big deal. We’ve consistently asked for $12.5 million over five years.. to address what is a huge problem,” he said.

“And a problem that, in terms of the Aboriginal community, goes largely under-reported.”

You can’t claim that you’re running a simple society and allow this amount of carnage to exist.

Alex Ferguson

They are keen to consult with Aboriginal community members and organisations, Lifeline Central West’s communications and engagement manager Rebekah Bullock said.

“We’re very conscious of the fact we need to get community on board with this. So we’ll be looking to engage community leaders,” she said.

The three main elements of the strategy includes:

- Outreach to create a community-wide conversation. Three outreach teams working across the region training and communicating with the community.

- Safety Net, with individual protection and personal support. Ultimately a 24/7 discreet telephone centre, chat and text, with the addition of call back and case management.

- Support. The strategy hopes to address the issue of mistrust by help seekers.

From the latest Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) report, in the the 12 months to March 2018, there were 142 incidents of domestic violence incidents at Walgett, 88 in Parkes, 229 in Bathurst, 91 in Bourke and 55 in Coonamble.

There were 387 incidents of domestic violence related assaults in Dubbo during that period.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death, Australia 2016 report found suicide was the leading cause of death among all people 15-44 years of age, and the second leading cause of death among those 45-54 years of age. 

The ABS also reported that there were 1808 drug induced deaths registered in 2016, the highest number of drug deaths in twenty years.

New South Wales recorded the largest number of drug induced mortality in 2016 with 547 deaths.

Lifeline Central West is one of the largest trainers in mental health and domestic violence in regional NSW, Mr Ferguson said, with workshops in Wagga Wagga, Wilcannia, Cobar, Bourke, Dubbo, Walgget, Lightning Ridge and more.

“These are the places we need to be all the time if we’re going to change the thinking about mental health and domestic violence,” he said.

“But it costs money, so we’re asking government - and we’ve consistently asked - for $12.5 million over five years.

“If we don’t take action to pull it up or slow it down then I think it would be negligent.”

Mr Ferguson said the impact of domestic violence, suicide and other issues to the wider community, emergency services called out to them was horrific.

“There are measurable impacts to a whole bunch of people but we still don’t attack the head problem,” he said.

“And the head problem is the way society is currently working.”