The Babana group, in partnership with other mental health organisations, brought together people from all over NSW hoping to look into establishing a network within the inner Sydney city area for peer to peer support run by Indigenous people for Indigenous people, in order to provide the community with tools and techniques to build resilience, as well as gather information and knowledge from the local community to feed into mental health policy development.
Most of the health workers and Elders in attendance for the second Suicide Prevention Awareness Day are all too aware of the issues. Most have experienced depression personally or know someone who has suicided.
The Babana Aboriginal Men's Group started over ten years ago with the aim to energise and empower the community in the inner-city areas of Sydney.
Since its inception, they've helped more than 350 Indigenous people get into employment. The organisation also launched the Coloured Diggers March every ANZAC Day, and regularly organises community awareness days around issues including mental, health, domestic violence and aged care.
Ossie Ryan believes Babana saved his life. He's now on the board of the organisation and works with Harbour City Ferries, something he says didn't think was possible more than ten years ago when he was suffering from depression and attempted suicide. Today, the La Perouse man tells his story in hopes that he can help others and show them they're not alone.
Ossie told NITV News: "A lot of people are scared and ashamed to ring someone and say ‘I'm struggling’. Me, I was 21, [and thought] ‘I'm too strong to be asking for help and to be seeking a counsellor’. In my mind I was saying, ‘I'm a strong Aboriginal man, I have to be a warrior. I'm an Aboriginal warrior’. Sometimes even warriors need help."
The crippling mental health issues that come with depression and suicide don't discriminate. Former rugby league stars, Joe Williams and Nathan Blacklock, were on hand to share their stories of battling demons and how they both almost succumbed to them. Both men now work with our communities to help prevent suicide.
Blacklock says he's glad he didn't go down that path and credits his son as the reason he is still here.
"I get to see my son grow up. I get to spend more time out bush, out on my land. I get to pass that onto my nieces and nephews, I get to actually educate my own mob and other Aboriginal people on the effects of suicide and help give them the resources on how to deal with their issues."
Bourke is more than 750 kilometres north-west of Sydney, but the distance was no deterrent to the Aboriginal health workers and Elders that made the journey to take part in the discussions. Jonathan Knight said the mental health and drug and alcohol situation in Bourke was pretty bad and the lack of resources there to help mob dealing with those issues wasn't enough.
"We hardly get anything out there. It's hard to get people out there because it's a remote community, you know, you've got to fly in and maybe drive four hours from Dubbo.
“We need as much help as any other little community. I'm pretty sure the issues are exactly the same in every other small community. Down here in the big smoke, you know, you've got counsellors on every second corner or something you know or program that's happening in the night or men's group or women's group that's happening every day of the week. Back home, it's not like that and we need that to happen."