Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Helping Indigenous people with a mental illness

Indigenous people living with mental illness, grief, and trauma will have greater access to much needed support through new and expanded Australian Government Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) services.

The Government is delivering on its commitment to provide mental health services for Indigenous people with $5.7 million across nine metropolitan and regional areas with large Indigenous communities.

Five new personal helpers and mentors will assist Indigenous Australians with a mental illness in each of the two new sites in Newcastle and Toowoomba.

An extra 10 full-time equivalent personal helpers and mentors will be shared among seven existing PHaMs sites in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia to help Indigenous Australians.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said mental illness can have a devastating effect on people’s lives leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable, and at risk of drug and alcohol abuse.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of mental illness and other problems that affect their wellbeing than other Australians,’ Ms Macklin said.

‘By building confidence and increasing connections within the community, personal helpers and mentors can help people with mental illness to overcome social isolation.

‘The personal helpers and mentors will work one-on-one with participants helping them achieve their personal goals such as finding suitable housing, using public transport or improving relationships with family and friends.

‘Importantly, the new helpers will also help to support families and carers of people with a mental illness, who often have little or no time for themselves due to the demands of their caring role.’

Ms Macklin said the service delivery model for the new Indigenous focussed sites had been designed in partnership with Indigenous people to have a greater focus on community development and cultural identity.

‘This model recognises and promotes spiritual, cultural, mental, and physical healing for Indigenous Australians living with mental illness, trauma, or grief,’ Ms Macklin said.

‘The providers are required to identify, understand, and respect the cultural beliefs and values of participants, and take them into account when designing services for them.’

‘Cultural brokers from the local communities may also be employed to work with the PHaMs teams, if appropriate.’

Existing services
Site Provider Additional Funding
(2009 to 2012)
Tweed / Byron, NSW New Horizons Enterprises Limited $438,930
Central Coast, NSW New Horizons Enterprises Limited $438,930
Newcastle, NSW Mission Australia $396,420
Barwon (Greater Geelong), VIC Karingal Inc $438,930
Ipswich, QLD Open Minds Australia $438,930
Armadale, WA Ruah Community Services $396,420
Elizabeth, SA Anglicare $396,420
Total $2,944,980
New services
Site Provider Funding to June 2012
Greater Newcastle, NSW New Horizons Enterprises Limited $1,321,400
Toowoomba, QLD Darling Downs Shared Care Incorporated $1,463,100
Total $2,784,500