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WA scholarships announced

January 2014 Event

2013 represents a major step forward for the Anika Foundation—while the Foundation was set up in NSW, it has long been the objective to expand the Schools Program to other states, to make it a truly Australian scholarship. Currently the suicide rate in NSW is the lowest at 8.4 per 100,000, versus an Australian average of 10.4. The Northern Territory is 19.7, Tasmania, 14.4, Western Australia 12.8, Queensland 12.3, South Australia 11.6, ACT 9.9, and Victoria 9.6. These statistics indicate the urgent need to expand our Schools Programs to other states. It also raises the issue of the need for a greater focus on regional aspects of suicide in terms of setting priorities. The Foundation has decided to move into these issues on two new fronts going forward.

A Western Australian Teacher's Scholarship

Economic and social factors are important factors in mental health and it is clear that the Northern Territory and Western Australia numbers are in part elevated because of the large disadvantaged indigenous populations in those states. In Australia as a whole the suicide rate is 23.8 for indigenous Australians and 9.9 for non-indigenous Australians. In the Kimberley region of WA, the numbers estimated by the Tribal Council is a staggering 83.3 (one for every 1200 persons) making it the worst in Australia by far.

In 2013 the Foundation was in active discussions with the WA Government about a new program for Western Australia. Brian Pontifex, who heads the WA Premier’s Office, acted as the main interlocutor between the Foundation and the WA Education Department. The Chairman visited WA twice in 2013, meeting with Brian, the Premier Colin Barnett, and many of the key people in WA in the areas of mental health, aboriginal affairs, and education: Duncan Ord, Deputy Director, Dept of Aboriginal Affairs (Aboriginal education focus) and Acting Director Dept. Planning in WA; Eddie Bartnik, Commissioner, Mental Health Commission; Puisan Whittaker, executive, Mental Health Commision; Chris Gostelow, Manager, School Psychology Service, Dept of Education & Training; Lucy Gunn, Executive Director, Community Development, Dept of Aboriginal Affairs and Jane Machin-Evrerill of the Department of Education. These people were motivated and supportive of the Anika Foundation, and helped bring about the first new WA scholar.

The discussions with senior staff in WA highlighted that the Foundation is right to be focusing on aboriginal youth suicide. Socio-economic factor are important, and indigenous children tend to fall out of a support environment, with poor school attendance (unauthorised absences). Poor health outcomes are also a key factor in suicide, and all too often youth get involved in activities known to increase suicide risk. While the initial focus of the foundation is in remote areas, there are also huge problems in outer-metropolitan areas of Perth and other cities.

The Foundation is proud to announce that Fiona Currans (Senior Psychologist, Non-Government Schools Psychology Service, Geraldton Regional Office of WA) is the recipient of the Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship for Western Australia 2014. Her location in the north of WA and her role in remote areas fit well with the Foundation’s aims of assisting remote communities.

A New PhD Scholarship

While not fully funded at this stage, the Foundation has also decided to take the risk of launching a second PhD scholarship based at the Black Dog Institute, but involving University of Sydney and UNSW staff. This research will be aimed at exploring regional, economic and related ethnic differences affecting adolescent depression and suicide, to allow prioritisation of suicide prevention activities to areas with the highest risk. This fits well with our concerns for remote areas. Helen Christensen, Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute, and Professor Ian Hickie University (Sydney University and Executive Director of the Brain and Mind Institute), will direct the project. The Anika Foundation will support a PhD student within this project focusing on the adolescent depression and suicide aspects of the project.

The Foundation will be seeking to raise more funds to support the full funding of these activities. We wish you all the best for 2014 and look forward to your on-going support.

Adrian Blundell-Wignall
Chairman, the Anika Foundation

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