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03 November 2022

Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Acting Executive Director Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Donna Stanley has been recognised at a national level, receiving the Australian Mental Health Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Prize.

The University of NSW Australian Mental Health Prize recognises the important and ground-breaking work being done in mental health care.

Donna is a proud Gunggari Umby woman, who is extremely passionate about lowering suicide rates and improving mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Donna’s brother died from suicide almost 30 years ago, and it has been a driving factor in her desire to change and improve outcomes for her mob.

“We have made a lot of good changes over the past 30 years, but we still have a long way to go,” Ms Stanley said.

“I am committed to continuing to make positive changes for our mob, especially across the Western NSW footprint. I want to create a safe and supportive future for my grandchildren and their children.

“We are creating culturally and clinically safe models of care for Aboriginal people and communities in the District, which was a significant body of work during the COVID-19 Delta outbreak.

“I’m very proud of the response of our team at the height of the pandemic. Dubbo was, unfortunately, the first community in Australia to lose an Aboriginal person to COVID, which made everyone see the reality of the virus. It was important to respond in a culturally safe and appropriate way to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community in very challenging times.

“We were able to have deeper conversations around what was happening, and we went above and beyond by doing special things like delivering birthday cakes to children. We were also able to give some comfort to those families that did lose loved ones and were not able to conduct sorry business as they normally would.

“Our model was taken right across Australia. While services are doing the best with what they’ve got, cultural capacity across mental health could be improved for Aboriginal people and is hugely important. Simple processes and pathways need to improve at all levels, taking into account Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing.”

Donna Stanley

Donna Stanley