The Anika Foundation's work with teachers and Aboriginal scholarships was established as part of the University of Western Australia (UWA) Young Lives Matter Foundation (YLM) program. It has established the Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship for WA teachers and for Aboriginal youth. The purpose of the former is to encourage and assist individual teachers currently working with secondary school aged students to undertake a study program focused on improving their understanding of youth mental health and depression. The latter is focused on mental health leadership programs for Aboriginal youth. The aim is to encourage youth to take what they learn back into their communities.
Both programs are administered by the Development and Alumni Relations office of UWA. Where Aboriginal scholarships are concerned this office works in partnership with the Professor Pat Dudgeon of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at UWA.
The first use of the program for Aboriginal youth was to support bursaries for Indigenous scholars (aged between 18-30) to attend the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference and the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference, 20-23 November 2018, hosted by the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Western Australia.
The aim of the Conferences was to bring together experts, leaders and members of the national and international Indigenous community to identify culturally appropriate approaches to suicide prevention.
The theme of the Conferences, 'Building a Stronger Tomorrow: Connecting our Communities Through Culture', reflected the unique opportunities for Indigenous people and communities, policy makers and researchers to share learning and to collaborate on solutions that work in Indigenous suicide prevention.
The conferences attracted over 500 delegates from across Australia and the World. The Conferences were preceded by the World Indigenous Youth Cultural Exchange Day, held on 19th November 2018.
This project was so successful the Anika Foundation agreed to fund Australian indigenous attendees at the next global conference to be held in Canada. This has been delayed due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, but the funding has been provided for such travel in 2022-23.
The Scholars and their Report
The winners selected for the Perth scholarship conference were those who showed the greatest interest in leadership development, a willingness to participate in the youth stream during the conference and a commitment to sharing the knowledge learnt with their community.
Four of the bursary holder participants provided a video interview in place of a written report.
In addition, one young woman who participated in the interviews but not the video spoke on what she had learned about grief, self-healing, and the knowledge she had gained throughout the conference sessions held by Indigenous leaders and others. She felt that the experiences of the people presenting, what they had been through and how they dealt with the grieving and healing process, would benefit her community. She also spoke of the prevalence of suicide in her own community, her lived experience of bereavement and the lack of mental health services. "I have learned a lot about grief and self-healing that will benefit family and community where I come from".
(Featuring the voices of Indigenous people from Australia and Canada the song was co-written by young people with song writing mentors from the Homelands Tour and the Youth Music Mentoring Project at the 2nd National and World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conferences).