Content Warning: This article discusses suicide
Prominent Indigenous psychologist Tracy Westerman and musical genius Roger Benedict have joined forces to raise money for Indigenous suicide prevention through a night of musical entertainment.
On this year's World Suicide Prevention Day, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Opera Australia Orchestra, conducted by Mr Benedict, united for the Concert For Life event on Tuesday night at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Joining the orchestras was the Sydney Children's Choir conducted by Sam Allchurch and pianist Simon Tedeschi.
Performing to a packed crowd of around 200 people, the orchestra and the choir left tears in the eyes of audience members as they attempted to reach out to people affected by suicide through music and song.
Adjunct Professor Westerman, managing director of Indigenous Psychological Services, told NITV News the night was about uniting as a nation.
"This is about Australians coming together in a way that they’ve never come together on this issue before, both black and white,” she said.
“It’s all about hope and it’s all about optimism despite all of these... heartbreaking statistics that you can’t get past really.”
The concert is in response to Indigenous people disproportionately committing suicide at rates almost double that of the wider community.
The nation’s suicide rate sits at 12.6 per 100,000 people – a rate that is above the World Health Organizations global average of 10.5.
And for suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the rate is double – with 21.4 per every 100,000 people taking their own lives.
It is also estimated that over 65,000 people a year attempt suicide in Australia.
Mr Benedict, Chief Conductor at the Sydney Conservatorium, with all proceeds from the night going to the Westerman Jilya Institute and the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program.
In total, the concert raised over $30,000.
“The Indigenous community are kind of overlooked I think in this area and suicide as a general cause we need to be much more aware, we need to to talk about it much more, we need to know when we need to look after people at risk of suicide,” he said.
The scholarship provides students with $10,000 per year to contribute to their study as well as living and transport cost with the program aiming to equip psychologists with the skills needed to care Indigenous for people in remote communities and across the nation.
Through the scholarship program, Adjunct Professor Westerman said she wants to build an empire.
"Someone said, what do you want to achieve with this scholarship and I off the cuff said I want to build an army,” she said.
Through the endless pursuits and efforts of Ms Westerman, her overarching aim is to reduce the amount of chronic mental health conditions within communities by training local people.
"It’s actually such a complicated issue that you need rigorous clinical training then throw culture into the mix it becomes a skill set of very few in this country,” she said.
“That’s why I am very very passionate of skilling up the next generation of clinicians because I genuinely believe it gives us our best opportunity of ensuring that we don’t continue to have generational child suicides.”
After the success of last night, Adjunct Professor Westerman hopes to see the concert become an annual event.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or a local Aboriginal Health Service. There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe. Indigenous Australian psychologist services can be found here.