Support services for those with a mental illness or suicide risk

Yarrabah Life Promotion Program, Qld

What is it?

Yarrabah Family Life Promotion program is a community developed, ‘holistic' response to address clusters of suicide among young people within Yarrabah and communities with links to Yarrabah.  The program encompasses suicide prevention, intervention, after-care and ‘life promotion'.

Background to Development

In the small Aboriginal community of Yarrabah, near Cairns, there were approximately 17 suicides during the period 1990-1996.  In response to this crisis, a series of community meetings were held. Suicide was defined as a ‘community issue' which required a community level response'. In April 1995, a Crisis Intervention Group developed a "Draft plan for Yarrabah suicide prevention, intervention, aftercare and healthy life promotions". This became the basis of the Yarrabah Family Life Promotion Program. The plan drew upon existing resources and services such as the Ambulance, Police, Schools and Health Service. In the absence of funding, community members worked as volunteers. A set of community-developed strategies for suicide prevention, intervention, aftercare and life promotion were implemented, and there were no suicides from 1997 to 2004. 

Life promotion strategies to address risk factors identified within the community included:

  • Training community members in crisis intervention and counselling
  • A crisis centre and crisis line
  • One-on-one grief and loss counselling, and family and men's support groups
  • Information for suicide survivors, families of suicide victims, and people who self- harm
  • Workshops on parenting and relationships
  • Promotion of sport, recreation and cultural activities
  • Development of networks across family and clan groups.

Two life promotion positions were employed by the local council. The Life Promotion program is now run out of the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, Yarrabah.  Life Promotion Officers are on call 24 hours, 7 days a week.

The success of the Yarrabah Life Promotion program has led to it being taken up by other communities around Australia. The word has spread through participation in a regional summit, presentations on national television and radio, and a range of conferences.

Why is this promising practice?

Yarrabah Life Prevention Program takes a flexible approach to working with clients, meeting in settings that are comfortable for them (in their homes or on the beach, for example). Care is taken to use inclusive language that avoids pathologising: They don't like it called mental health, we say that we just want to help them.

Links to further information

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service: Life Promotion

 Brochure:  Healing Our Way After A Suicide


Aboriginal Mental Health Worker Program NT - Working Both Ways

What is it?

The program supports the employment of Aboriginal Mental Health Workers to work alongside GPs. The model has two elements:

  • The role of the general practitioner and clinical practice in medical diagnosis and treatment; and,
  • The role of the Aboriginal Mental Health Workers as cultural insiders providing insight into the cultural frames within which symptoms and needs are expressed in the Indigenous context.

Background to Development

The Top End Division of General Practice (TEDGP) gained funding under the Australian Government's More Allied Health Services (MAHS) program to fund the employment of Aboriginal Mental Health Workers (AMHWs) to work alongside GPs.  The program started in 2002 when two AMHWs were employed across eight remote community health centres in the Top End of the NT which had general practitioners:  Angurugu, Bathurst Island, Borroloola, Galiwin'ku, Kalano, Lajamanu, Numbulwar and Oenpelli. 

Following an evaluation undertaken by Charles Darwin University, a second phase of the Aboriginal Mental Health Worker Program saw the General Practice Network NT obtain funds from the COAG National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011, Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas Initiative, to employ Aboriginal Mental Health Workers in remote Aboriginal Communities in the Top End of the NT:  Groote Eylandt, Yirrkala, and Galiwinku.  A mental health nurse is employed at the Laynhapuy homelands and a counsellor is employed at Borroloola.

Links to further information

Evaluation Phase 1

Phase 2


HITnet Kiosks: Frame of Mind project (Cape York)

What is it?

The Health Interactive Technology (HITnet) project promotes health and wellbeing to disadvantaged  populations through creating and sharing multimedia information in ways that empower individuals, families and communities. Touchscreen kiosks have been provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, and the information provided on the kiosks is managed and kept up-to-date by a head office, which also collects data about who is accessing the information and which information is being accessed. The kiosks provide information on a range of health and wellbeing related issues including alcohol, sexual health, kids' health, mental health, nutrition, diabetes and smoking.

Frame of Mind is a mental health education workshop delivered via HITnet to communities in Cape York and elsewhere.  Its aim is to remove the stigma associated with mental illness by raising the awareness of generalist non-clinical health staff and other interested community members. Frame of Mind delivers parts of the nationally accredited Mental Health First Aid course. The workshop uses musicians and artists so that an interactive product remains behind on the touchscreens and is available to the whole community after each workshop.

Background to Development

Work on HITnet began in 2001. Funding for the project has come from a ‘patchwork' of government and non-government sources.  A coordination process prior to the workshops, including meetings with organisers and artists and a pre-workshop community visit, helped to gather support for the project from key health practitioners and interested community members. A post-evaluative stage involving all stakeholders and organisers to discuss the benefits and value of the project was important in planning for the future roll-out of the project.

Links to further information

See website: