A field of white wreaths covered in flowers, notes and poems were displayed in memory of suicide victims in Brisbane earlier this year as part of National White Wreath Day, an initiative of the Queensland-based White Wreath Association which aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
A field of white wreaths covered in flowers, notes and poems were displayed in memory of suicide victims in Brisbane earlier this year as part of National White Wreath Day, an initiative of the Queensland-based White Wreath Association which aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. KRISTEN DALY

Mental hearing support needed for indigenous patients

BUNDABERG'S indigenous community is missing out on cultural support when the Mental Health Review Tribunal visits the region.

A member of Aboriginal or Torres Strait heritage was present at just 10% of the hearings involving ATSI residents last financial year.

The city had the lowest level of indigenous representation at MHRT hearings in the state.

It was followed closely by Bayside, where ATSI members attended five out of 41 - or 12.5% - of indigenous hearings in 2014-15.

Cairns also performed poorly, with just 243 of that city's 419 cases having ATSI support.

Statewide, the MHRT heard 1670 matters relating to 845 indigenous and Torres Strait Islander patients and 1426 of those hearings had an ATSI member present.

Tribunal president Barry Thomas said the tribunal was struggling to find an indigenous person - usually an elder or someone with a mental health or legal background - in the Bundaberg region to attend hearings.

Instead the tribunal was forced to broadcast a member's presence via video link on the rare occasions someone was available from outside the region.

"For the bulk of indigenous patients they really appreciate it," Mr Thomas said of having an ATSI representative involved.

"They feel more comfortable in being able to talk to the indigenous member.

"It's important to understand that Torres Strait Islanders have a different view of mental illness to indigenous people and their (the Aboriginal) view is different to the white folk, so it's a question of having somebody on the tribunal who understands that."

Bundaberg's ATSI tribunal dealt with 16 indigenous patients, hearing two indigenous forensic order reviews and 26 involuntary treatment order reviews.

OUR REGION

Queensland Mental Health Review Tribunal Bundaberg statistics:

Years: 2013-14, 2014-15

Number of sittings: 23, 23

Total matters heard (includes adjournments): 144, 137

Forensic orders reviewed: 18, 18

Involuntary treatment orders reviewed: 117, 103

Electroconvulsive therapy: 2, 7

Indigenous patients: 12, 16



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