The ImpaRa program has won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander QLD Mental Health Award for 2021.

As Queensland’s only state-wide Mental Health Awards, it recognises and celebrates individuals, groups and organisations who work with people living with mental illness.

Nominees put in the work to support people who have mental illness and strive to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

A panel of judges shortlisted the finalists from over 100 nominations this year.

The finalists in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award category were:

  • ImpaRa program
  • North and West Remote Health (NWRH)
  • Selectability (Palm Island)

ImpaRa is a suicide prevention program for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Running for just over three years, ImpaRa has worked to support the mental health of almost a thousand young people.

ImpaRa program Coordinator Amy Keys, told the National Indigenous Times that becoming a finalist was completely unexpected.

“It’s a proud moment to be acknowledge for the work that we’ve done. And to know that what we have done has secured the mental health of the young people we work with,” she said.

In her acceptance speech today Keys said that she was “truly honoured to be a winner”, and thanked Richmond Fellowship Queensland (RFQ) for their sponsorship of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category.

“Before I took this role, an elder pulled me aside and asked if I was ready for this role.
She told me ‘it’s our own kids and our future that you are going to be saving’,” Keys said.

“To be recognised is a great milestone. I want to acknowledge all the participants who
have bravely come to us and asked for help. Anyone else working in suicide prevention understands what I mean. ”

Keys told the National Indigenous times that Mental Health Month and raising awareness of is cruical because “anyone can suffer from mental illness”.

“We are all vulnerable to it,” she said.

“We [ImpaRa] teach young people and their parents and guardians about what the young person is going through and we give them an understanding of what they are going through and how it impacts that person.

“These are the moments of despair these young people go through and if you’re there to help too then together we can provider better healing.”

The overall prize includes the Earle Duus Memorial Award and $4,000 prize to help continue their work in mental health.

Keys said that receiving the prize means that the facilitators can take their cohort to Country.

“This means taking the young people to Stradbroke Island to do some fishing, and teaching them traditional ways of how we fish and how we cook the fish.

“This would be in a celebration of a milestone that they’ve achieved, to reconnect to Country.

“The money would go to resources, transport, being able to implement cultural camps, etc.”

Finalists NWRH delivers services to the Aboriginal Communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island, where integrated mental health and wellbeing services ensure that quality of life is improved.

Selectability works to improve the mental wellbeing of regional Queenslanders and contribute to suicide prevention.

The Queensland Mental Health Week Achievement Awards was hosted by Open Minds, who have hosted the event since its conception in 1996.

By Teisha Cloos