Over the course of the last decade Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention sector has undergone an immense amount of change. The landmark Senate Inquiry into Suicide back in 2009 set the scene with more than forty recommendations and as we move towards a decade since its release its worthy to remind ourselves that there is still a lot of work to be done. More than a decade ago a little known committee was formed called the “National Committee for Standardised Reporting” and while many might think; “what did we need another committee for?”. In this case it was crucial to our understanding of the complexity of the coronial and the national police system when it comes to suicide prevention.
In actual fact the coronial system is just one part of the process and in all cases the first step is the attendance of a first responder at an incident. In the moments after someone’s passing a significant amount of information is collected both directly and indirectly by way of scene examination. Many reform to this as “Police Form One”. From Australia’s perspective there each State and Territory (with the exception of the ACT) have their own Police forces and therefore their own systems and forms for the collection of information. If the matter is then referred to the coroner an inquiry will be established where they will go forensically through the life of the person in order to try and identify what happened, establish facts and where it is needed offer recommendations into the system the person may have interacted with. Data from inquiries is then fed into the National Coronial Information Systems (or NCIS). But, like all things, in a Federal system of nation hood not all as is simple or as easy as I describe. In fact when you unpack all of the different moving parts the system is clunky, lacking uniformity and a challenge for many families to navigate.
Lets start with the description I provided in terms of Police Form One. Right across the country there is no structured uniformity to the question asked and therefore the data being collected. Therefore there ends up being little or no uniformity when it comes to what the data is telling us. Then there is the way first line responders are dealt with in terms of the support they need having attended a scene that can be both challenging and confronting. For example; the evidence tells us that PTSD is often the cause of front line responders leaving their jobs and, in many cases, taking their own lives. But, do we have the appropriate and consistent care in place for them?
Then there are the families – more often than note the first time a family would have interacted with both emergency services and then coronial system will be as the result of the death of a loved one. It can be arduous system to both understand and navigate – to seek answers or figure out what your role as a family member is. Even down to the cultural need to have a loved one returned as soon as possible for burial. This lack of knowledge and understanding leads to the compounding of grief and trauma b y family. This new reality that many families encounter is just the beginning of the process with an inquiry to come, hearings and findings.
Again, there is no consistent approach across the country and very little uniformity so it begs the question even though it might be a vast country with a complicated and sometimes complex Federated system of Government does there need to be different ways and means of structuring Coronial systems? In the last few weeks there has been a call from some to put this on the agenda and take a look at both improving our systems and making it easier for families and members of the public to navigate it. I agree and think though that we need to go further and have a look at the different moving parts that occur both pre and post the Coroner being involved – this includes a uniform approach of all State, Territory and Federal Police Forces using the same “Police Form One” and thereby asking the same questions. In addition, as one of the most successful multi-cultural societies in the world, we need to take time and look at the role of culture and how that may play out as different ethnic groups become part of the system. One recommendation is the establishment of a new National Coronial Commission that would seek to develop and build best practice, advise State, Territory and Federal Governments in terms of policy and also look at national uniformity when it comes to legislation. The National Coronial Information System, the National Committee for Standardised Reporting and others are a good start but if we are to continue our drive towards reform we should not rest on the work to date – we must driver ourselves further to ensure more Australians are able to love long and healthy lives.
About the author: Matthew Tukaki is the Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, former Chair of Deakin University CSaRO and Australia’s Representative to the United Nations Global Compact. Matthew is currently Chair of New Zealand Maori Council, Auckland District, Chair of the National Maori Authority, a Member of New Zealand Maori Council, Chair of NewsNow and Managing Director of Babana Aboriginal.
We know that mob out there are uncertain as to what the COVID-19 / Corona Virus means for them – this can cause us all to panic and some in community more so that others. Panic attacks can compound the situation so we gather some information about what you can do now t...
Don’t forget our elders can suffer in silence too: suicide prevention
Many people think that mental health and suicide are not topics that impact our elders but they could not be more wrong. The data tells us there continues to be an emerging trend when it comes to peop...
Wherever you look these days, not matter the developed country, whole population groups and peoples struggle with the daily grind of life. From children in state care to mental health, from affordable housing to the primary health system and from education to employmen...