Victoria’s royal commission into mental health has heard that Indigenous people are disproportionately exposed to risk factors that negatively impact their psychological well-being.
This includes the trauma associated with colonisation, the Stolen Generations, discrimination and over-representation in the justice system.
Auntie Nellie Flagg, a Wemba Wemba Elder, gave evidence on Tuesday about the mental anguish she experienced growing up in in the north-west Victorian town of Swan Hill in the 1960s.
She said her childhood was happy until she began attending school and was ostracised by her classmates: "It wasn’t because I was Nellie, but because I was black."
"Once I had a car driven at me while walking home from netball and footy training," Ms Flagg told the commission.
"I learnt very quickly there are things I can do and there are things I can't do and places I don't want to be."
The commission heard that around the country Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people are three times more likely to experience high or very high mental distress, and they are dying by suicide at twice the rate of the general population.
Ms Flagg, now 62, said she wanted to reach the age of 60 because so many of her family members had died young.
"Some were natural causes, some were from suicides, and again the abuse that happened back years ago to people that went unrecognised," she said.
"It's not an isolated situation.
"There's too many deaths in our community and a lot of them can be prevented."
Helen Kennedy, the acting head of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, told the inquiry that developing culturally appropriate services was critical.
"What we're doing now is not working. We have to have a different approach," she said.
"Looking after people's social and emotional well-being and supporting protective factors … we know that works."