Principles Underlying CBPATSISP

The work of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) comes from the principles in The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2015-202/2017-2023 and the NHMRC Ethical Conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Communities: Guidelines for Researchers and Stakeholders (2018)

The principles that underlie the Aboriginal and Torres Strait indicators of best practice are listed below:

  • Are concerned with reconnection and community life
  • Are concerned with restoration and community resilience
  • Are a means of empowering people to regain a sense of control and mastery over their lives
  • Have a focus on social and emotional wellbeing and mental health promotion, rather than solely focusing on mental illness and suicide
  • Have a focus on recovery and healing from stress and trauma
  • Reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understandings of health, mental health and suicidal behaviours
  • Have strategies that are Indigenous-led, family focused, culturally responsive, and context specific
  • Are concerned with self-determination and community governance
  • Include activities that use culturally responsive techniques and methods and processes
  • Use interdisciplinary approaches that provide outreach services
  • Value and enact partnerships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services facilitate ownership and involvement from local communities
  • Involve Indigenous people in all stages of consultation, negotiation and decision-making processes to establish community ownership of suicide prevention activities and other initiatives
  • Recognise and harness the broad range of skills and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to improve health and wellbeing and reduce suicidal behaviours
  • Ensure that organisations and staff are culturally competent and that services are developed and delivered in culturally safe and responsive manner

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indicators for Best Practice

Programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be based on the above principles and be able to demonstrate how they meet the below Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander indicators for best practice.

1.    The program uses the guiding principles by having

a.   a cultural and community focus,

b.    strengthening Indigenous governance and

c.    demonstrating  cultural respect.

2.    NHMRC Ethical Guidelines were considered in developing the program or service.

3.    Community/cultural governance are in place for the program or service.

4.    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were involved in the development of the program or service or steps were taken to include them later.

5.    The organisation of the program or service is involved with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups as shown by:

a.    Process being community-led and directed

b.    Formal partnerships

c.     Other types of collaboration

6.     An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community reference group or similar was established for the program or service.

a.    The group included key  stakeholders or members of the target group (eg youth, elders, consumers, carers, LGBTIQ) and meetings were held regularly.

7.     The program or service considers the social and historical context of where people are living.

8.     The program is specific to local groups by considering gender and location where delivered.

9.     The program has relationships/integrates with similar programs, services and other stakeholders.

10.    The program or service is working with the local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

11.     There is evidence that community capacity building took place.

12.    Ongoing activity is in place to ensure a continuous development/ quality improvement process, program is being refined.

13.    There is follow-up for participants after completion of the program or service.

14.    Community feedback processes are built into the program or service.

15.    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff/workers are involved in program or service development and implementation.

16.    Non-Aboriginal staff/workers involved had undertaken cultural competence and safety training.

Our Guiding Principles

The guiding principles that inform the overall work of the CBPATSISP and specifically the CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework include the key principles of the LiFE Framework and the nine guiding principles from The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2017-2023. The renewed Framework is endorsed by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and represents agreement among a wide range of stakeholders on the broad strategies needed to support the whole-of-life view of health held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

These principles take into account the cultural, social, spiritual, economic and historical and contemporary contexts of Indigenous communities in the delivery of health, mental health and social service. They require that program service delivery and practices are adapted to local cultural and community contexts to facilitate community engagement, ownership and thereby the likely uptake of prevention initiatives. These principles are:

Health as holistic, encompassing mental, physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land is central to wellbeing. Crucially, it must be understood that while the harmony of these interrelations is disrupted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ill health will persist.

The right to self-determination which includes community control and empowerment: projects should be grounded in community, owned by the community, based on community needs and accountable to the community.
The need for cultural understanding: Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and guide the assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health and mental health problems.
Recognition that the experiences of trauma and loss have intergenerational effects. It must be recognised that the experiences of trauma and loss, present since European invasion, are a direct outcome of the disruption to cultural wellbeing. Trauma and loss of this magnitude continue to have intergenerational effects.
Recognition and respect of human rights. Failure to respect these human rights constitutes continuous disruption to mental health and wellbeing. Human rights relevant to mental illness must be specifically addressed.
Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Recognition of the centrality of family and kinship as well as the broader concepts of family and bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.
Recognition of individual and community cultural diversity. There is no single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture or group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinships and tribes, as well as ways of living. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples may currently live in urban, rural or remote settings, in urbanised, traditional or other lifestyles, and frequently move between these ways of living.
Recognition of Indigenous strengths: It must be recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment (SHRG, 2004).
Programs and strategies must be sustainable, strength based and capacity building. The SEWB Framework promotes empowerment by providing the Indigenous workforce and community members with tools for awareness, early identification and for responding to self-harm issues within the community.
Genuine partnerships: projects should work in genuine partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and other providers to support and enhance existing local measures, not duplicate or compete with them. Funding applications need to demonstrate a record of genuine community and stakeholder/provider consultations and a track record of community empowerment.
Safe cultural delivery: projects should be delivered in a culturally safe manner.
Innovation and evaluation, community promotion and education: projects need to build on learnings, try new and innovative approaches, share and promote learnings to improve the evidence base to reduce suicide in other communities.


Contact Us

School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia

39 Fairway, Nedlands, WA 6009. 

+61 8 6488 1570

Acknowledgement of Country:

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar nation, and their Elders past, present and emerging. We also wish to acknowledge and respect the continuing culture, strength, and resilience of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities as well as our Indigenous members from other parts of the world.


“The terms ‘Aboriginal’, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ and ‘Indigenous’ are used interchangeably. It is acknowledged that there are many cultural differences between and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the use of differing terms does not intend to disregard such differences.” © Copyright 2018