• Serena Williams' own struggles with mental health inspired her to support the Australian charity (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The tennis great is backing a First Nations support program that takes a culturally informed approach to mental health and suicide prevention.
Dan Butler

10 Mar 2021 - 5:26 PM  UPDATED 10 Mar 2021 - 6:38 PM

Sporting superstar Serena Williams has thrown her support behind an Aboriginal mental health initiative. 

Williams, 39, surprised the Black Dog Institute by offering to donate proceeds from the online sale of some of her personal wardrobe, including tennis memorabilia and sneakers she wore at the US Open.

'This is a great chance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people everywhere to know that she is supporting us, and what we're trying to do,' says Leilani Darwin, a Quandamooka woman, and Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy at the Black Dog Institute.

The money raised will go to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, an arm of the organisation that runs culturally informed programs and services for First Nations People.

'The experience of mental ill health and suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is fundamentally different to mainstream definitions of mental ill-health and suicide,' Ms Darwin told NITV.  

'We have to offer support that is culturally appropriate and considers holistic social and emotional wellbeing.' 

Williams has been vocal in recent years about her own struggles with mental health and depression, due in no small part to the racism she has faced as a public figure. 

Leilani Darwin says having a high-profile supporter such as Williams highlights the important issue.

'Having [her] recognise what we are doing and offering to give support to us, means everything... As a strong powerful, well-recognised Black woman, Serena has chosen to advocate for the Black Dog Institute and for Indigenous people. It is incredibly needed and valued.'