Philosophical Approach Coming from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspective


The urgent need for successful initiatives to reduce the high rates of Indigenous suicide and self-harm among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia (here in referred to as Indigenous Australians or peoples) is widely acknowledged by Governments and Aboriginal communities. The Evaluation Framework presented here has been adopted by the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) for formally assessing the effectiveness and culturally appropriateness of existing suicide prevention and early intervention initiatives, programs and services in Indigenous communities in Australia for inclusion on the CBPATSISP Clearinghouse. The CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework also provides a practical planning and evaluation tool for communities and organisations working in suicide prevention and early intervention.

Based on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP), the CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework intends to guide program evaluation for professional practitioners, program and service providers working in suicide prevention, clinical services and interventions.

The Conceptual Framework of Indigenous Goals, Principles and Rights

The framework for operationalising the CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework goals and principles encompasses the multidimensional interrelationship of Indigenous research goals, context and action principles and outcomes within a human rights framework. It incorporates the key values and principles underpinning the CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework and is premised on the belief that in accordance with human rights covenant, Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination and the right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development .

It provides the basis for discussions, decision-making and negotiation between Indigenous groups, program providers and evaluators about the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ elements to support the effectiveness and culturally appropriateness of existing and/or new programs and initiatives in reducing suicide and strengthening Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing.

The CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework is based on extensive evidence of the essential prerequisites for the attainment of Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and healing. This research demonstrates that to be effective, programs and services need to:

  • Assist in Indigenous capacity building
  • Prioritise Indigenous knowledge and experience
  • Recognise Indigenous rights and self-determination
  • Facilitate cultural strengthening
  • Facilitate and promote Indigenous leadership and governance
  • Foster genuine partnerships and community engagement
  • Promote healing

This conceptual framework is intended as both a process guide and a ‘cultural audit’ for applying the Indigenous Evaluation principles and indicators to specific populations and issues, and specific community and organisational context.

Importantly, the CBPATSISP Evaluation Framework is premised on the notion put forward by key Indigenous leaders that Indigenous self-determination is both a goal and a non-negotiable right – and as such, is a fundamental principle and criteria of all research concerning Indigenous peoples and a critical indicator of social and emotional wellbeing.