Manual of Resources for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention

Primary Health Networks & Funding Organisations

Resources to Support Culturally Safe & Sustainable Commissioning

At present, most Commonwealth Government funding of suicide prevention programs for Indigenous people and communities is delivered via the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and mainstream organisations.

The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) supports the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) position that ACCHOs should be funded directly as preferred providers of mental health and suicide prevention services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in line with the principle of self-determination.

Until this is achieved, PHNs must take responsibility for commissioning services in ways that empower Indigenous people and organisations, develop their capacity, and support their autonomy.

This section of the Manual contains resources that can help PHNs support the wellbeing of Indigenous people through culturally safe and sustainable commissioning.

PHN Guidance Documents

This section of the Manual links to key Department of Health policy documents. It is intended to assist Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in navigating and interpreting the advice provided by the Commonwealth Government in their commissioning of suicide prevention services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Funding, Policy & Guidance

How PHNs should work with Indigenous Communities

The Government sets expectations for the 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in their commissioning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention services through a collection of guidance documents. Some are Indigenous-specific while most apply to all commissioning, and vary greatly in the level of detail they include about how to apply the guidance in PHNs’ work with Indigenous communities.

Overarching all PHN commissioning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (including physical as well as mental health), the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) – Guiding Principles document establishes a template for the relationship between PHNs and ACCHOs, articulating principles of Indigenous health, culture and governance as they are to be applied by the PHNs across all their work.

Mental Health Tools & Resources

These tools and resources are intended to be read in conjunction with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) – Guiding Principles.

Many are unchanged since their original publication in 2016, while some have been added or updated more recently.

Mental Health Flexible Funding Pool

This is a collection of guidelines for PHNs in commissioning under the flexible funding pool program, through which PHNs are expected to respond to the particular mental health needs in their regions.

National Agreement on Closing the Gap​

In July 2020 the National Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed by Australian governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks).

The National Agreement was developed as a partnership, between Indigenous organisations and the Commonwealth, State and Territory and local governments, intended to overcome the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes 17 targets, with the partners’ commitments against these to be confirmed by July 2021.

National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement

In 2022, the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments signed a new National Agreement on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which sets out new expectations for government mental health and suicide prevention services, including enhanced commitments to culturally-responsive services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Tools & Checklists

These tools and checklists have been developed to assist PHNs in commissioning services that empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, respect their autonomy, and model genuine, reciprocal relationships that prioritise Indigenous perspectives in the development of social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention programs and services.*

By completing these interactive tools, PHNs can identify their strengths and any weaknesses in preparing to commission services for Indigenous people and communities. They can also return to the checklists periodically, to monitor their
progress over time towards culturally responsive commissioning.

The above tools and checklists represent PHNs’ existing responsibilities to commission culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and have been developed from the following source documents:

PHN Engagement Project

In 2017 the Australian Government established the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program, funding projects to reduce suicide and suicidal behaviour. One objective was to build the capacity of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to lead regional suicide prevention service planning and commissioning.

The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) is funded under the program to develop and promote best practice resources in Indigenous suicide prevention for use by PHNs through the Manual of Resources in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.

In 2019 the CBPATSISP visited 14 PHNs across Australia to identify key issues in their commissioning of social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The PHN Engagement Project explored PHNs’ experiences of working with Indigenous communities, highlighting common themes, opportunities and responses to challenges.

Reconciliation Action Plans​

Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Framework provides organisations with a structured approach to advance reconciliation. Each type of RAP is designed to suit an organisation at different stages of their reconciliation journey.

Since 2016, under the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) And Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) – Guiding Principles, PHNs have been expected to, “have in place, or be progressing towards, a Reconciliation Action Plan endorsed by Reconciliation Australia.”

Reflect: Scoping Capacity for Reconciliation

Reflect RAPs are for 12 months. They are intended to get organisations started in reconciliation and include steps to prepare for reconciliation initiatives in future RAPs. A Reflect RAP means scoping and developing relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders, deciding on the organisation’s vision for reconciliation and exploring its sphere of influence.

Innovate: Implementing Reconciliation Initiatives

An Innovate RAP runs for two years, and outlines actions for achieving the organisation’s vision for reconciliation. Innovate RAP commitments create a deeper understanding of the organisation’s sphere of influence, and establish the best approach to advancing reconciliation. An Innovate RAP develops and strengthens relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, engaging staff and stakeholders in reconciliation, and developing and piloting innovative strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Stretch: Embedding Reconciliation

A Stretch RAP is for organisations that have developed strategies, and established a very strong approach towards advancing reconciliation internally and within the organisation’s sphere of influence. It spans a two to three year period, and is focused on longer-term strategies, and working towards defined measurable targets and goals. The Stretch RAP requires organisations to embed reconciliation initiatives into business strategies so they become ‘business as usual’.

PHN Reconciliation Action Plans

Alternative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Engagement Frameworks and Health Plans

Capital Health (ACT) - Cultural Competency Framework

Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN - First Nations Health and Wellness Framework 2023-2028

Murrumbidgee PHN - Cutting a Track: Aboriginal Health Regional Plan 2020 - 2022
(This document has been produced by the Murrumbidgee Aboriginal Health Consortium, of which MPHN is a member)

Stories of Positive Commissioning

These stories highlight positive practice in commissioning of social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention services in partnership with Aboriginal communities and community-controlled organisations. They demonstrate innovative approaches to co-design, service planning, delivery and governance as well as responses to challenges in culturally safe commissioning.

While every community has unique needs, these case studies present models for success that communities and PHN funders may find helpful in thinking about their own situations.

PHN Developed Resources

PHNs have developed their own tools and resources to support the commissioning process. This is a collection of PHN resources most likely to be useful in commissioning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention services.

Other Commissioning Resources

Many other organisations have developed resources that may be valuable to PHNs in commissioning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention services.

ATSISPEP: Report of the Critical Response Pilot Project

The Apology

Indigenous Governance for Suicide Prevention In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

Human Services Standards Evidence Guide

Solutions that Work: ATSISPEP Report

Implementing Integrated Suicide Prevention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Principles and Practice

Contracting for Indigenous Health Care: Towards Mutual Accountability

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