Winners announced: 2016 LiFE Awards for Excellence in Suicide Prevention

27 July 2016

Last night Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) celebrated the 13th Annual LiFE Awards recognising excellence in suicide prevention.

The 2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference Dinner played host to this important event and was a chance for the whole sector to appreciate the innovative work being undertaken by our peers and colleagues.

The Awards are a prestigious national event that attracts nominations from all areas including business, industry, media, community, government, youth research and medicine – all with an interest in suicide prevention. Nominations are received from all over Australia, and we were overwhelmed with the number of quality nominations this year showcasing the exciting, innovative and diverse range of programs being undertaken within the field.

The nominees range from mainstream programs to local ‘grass roots’ organisations and dedicated individuals. The Awards celebrate the commitment and energy of the nominees and their vital contribution to the reduction of suicide within our communities. Many congratulations to all 2016 nominees for their outstanding contribution.

2016 LiFE Award Winners

Many congratulations to our esteemed 2016 LiFE Award winners and those highly commended by our Judging Committee. Below the winner names we have included their award citation for your reference. These were read out by sponsors at the Award Ceremony.

Leadership Award

Lived experience advocate and National Mental Health Commissioner, Jackie Crowe

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award

Leilani Darwin for design and development of culturally safe prevention program UHELP

Best Poster Overall

Reachout Next Step: An online tool to fast track access to support services for young people"

Community Development Award

QLife Volunteers

Community Engagement (Individual) Award

Suicide prevention advocate and bereaved mother, Dianne Gaddin

Community Engagement (Organisation) Award

Hunter Institute for Mental Health

Media Award

The Sunday Telegraph for the Can We Talk campaign

Research Award

Atari Metcalf

Student Poster Award

Jin Han "Professional help seeking intentions for suicidal ideation among Australian and Chinese students"

Workplace Award

Brown’s Store IGA for workplace development


Many thanks to Jacinta Hawgood for presenting both Poster prizes on behalf of sponsor AISRAP (Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention​).

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Award, presented by Wesley Lifeforce. The recipient of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category award is: Leilani Darwin

Leilani is a proud Aboriginal woman who is on a continuing journey to learn about her Aboriginal family history. Driven by her personal lived experience of suicide she has worked hard to build trust and rapport with the young people at Headspace Inala. She works closely with with the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Program (SPAMHP) and the Inala Elders Corporation, and various other local community organisations.

Through these partnerships, Leilani designed and developed the United Health Education and Learning Program (UHELP) in consultation with the community. This program taps into cultural learning styles and strengths to actively engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in physical, social, and emotional wellbeing promotion activities that incorporate substance use diversion, suicide prevention, and mental health resilience.

It was found to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, and is an innovative intervention model that specifically addresses the social and cultural realities of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Leilani has also worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male offenders at a Correctional Centre where she delivered programs which included Ending Domestic and Family Violence. She is a Nationally Accredited Mediator, an Accredited Facilitator of Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid and is Deputy Chairperson, Gallang Place an Indigenous Counselling and Training organisation.

Leilani’s ongoing dedication and commitment to prevention of youth suicide, and to helping and empowering local communities to make positive life changes, makes her a worthy recipient of the LiFE Award. We present Leilani with a LiFE Award tonight to commend her for all of her achievements and her ongoing efforts to reduce suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as to recognise the collaborative efforts of community partners.

Community Development Award, presented by Relationships Australia. The recipient is: QLife Volunteers

QLife provides a multi-platform national counselling service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, their friends and family. The project provides nation-wide, early intervention, peer supported telephone and web based services to diverse people of all ages experiencing poor mental health, psychological distress, social isolation, discrimination, experiences of being misgendered and/or other social determinants that impact on their health and wellbeing.

The volunteers of the partner agencies that make up QLife Australia have been giving their time to support their communities long before the national project came into being. They are each skilled and compassionate people, living in either Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth and soon will include rural and regional locations all across Australia.

The strength of the QLife service is the commitment that each of our volunteers make to give their time simply to be available to listen to other people. Individuals know that by contacting QLife they are getting in touch with someone who identifies in a similar way to them, or who is willing to hear their thoughts and feelings without judgement. This makes an enormous difference in the lives of many people every year.

This volunteer force has been unbroken for over forty years and is a remarkable statement of the resilience of LGBTI communities.

We know that often the highest risk of suicide or self harm for LGBTI people comes at times in their life when they are most isolated from support, either personal or professional. The volunteer force of QLife is actively combating this in the most direct way possible - to be an antidote to isolation, and to provide for people he understanding they simply do not have in their lives. Volunteers make themselves available in significant numbers on public holidays like Christmas and New Years Day: a testament to their unfaltering commitment to service consistency.

In her letter of support, Dr Kerrie Buhagiar from ReachOut Australia said “We have found the work of the QLife Volunteers to be highly skilled, respectful of the needs of young LGBTIQA people and a great way for clients to talk about their experiences of sexuality, bodies and gender expression.”

Many congratulations and thank you to QLife Volunteers, past and present.

Community Engagement (Individual) Award, presented by R U OK?

Before I announce the recipient of this year’s award for this category, I would first like to acknowledge the Judging Committee’s desire to recognise two finalists as highly commended. Of Bronwen Edwards, one of her referees said, “Bronwen stands out among people who advocate for a greater focus on suicide prevention through her passion, enterprise and leadership.  In putting her case to government, to local authorities and to community audiences Bronwen leads by example.” Of Justin Geange, a Judge commented, “Justin’s energy, creativity and ongoing commitment to helping communities communicate is inspirational”. Well done and thank you Bronwen and Justin.

Now onto the winner of this category. The recipient of the Community Engagement category award is: Dianne Gaddin

After many years of supporting her daughter with her management of bipolar disorder, Dianne was bereaved by suicide. This began a years-long campaign to increase hotspot safety.

Her work brought her face to face with various Ministers including then Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, who supported her quest for funding the safety measures. When funding was secured and all other obstacles overcome, she monitored the works to be sure that no more lives would be lost to delays.

In her letter of support, Ms Maureen Mendelowitz from JewishCare said “…she made up her mind to do all in her power to obtain funding to upgrade this area to prevent more suicides.  This is a task that most faint-hearted members of our society would’ve given up.  But I know she was so determined despite all the doors being shut in her face – she just never gave up.”

Dianne continues her advocacy for suicide prevention through her volunteer work with numerous organisations. She shares her experience through speaking engagements such as Suicide Postvention Conferences and working with The Black Dog Institute as a voluntary presenter.  She is also a Crisis Line Volunteer for Jewish House.

She is an inspirational lady who shares her heartbreaking lived experience to raise awareness and make tangible change in efforts to prevent suicide. All who have come across Dianne cannot say enough about her motivation, passion and persistence. This year Dianne was recognised in the Australian Day Honours for her services to mental health through a range of support organisations.

Nothing can bring her daughter back but this woman does everything she can to make sure other families don’t have to endure the pain and loss suicide brings.

Please join me in thanking Dianne Gaddin for her tireless efforts to prevent suicide.

Community Engagement (Organisation) Award, presented by Australian Funeral Directors’ Association The recipient of the Community Engagement category award is: Hunter Institute of Mental Health.

The Hunter Institute of Mental Health is a leading national organisation dedicated to the prevention of suicide since 1997, through delivery of successful, evidence-based policy and programs, building capacity of individuals, families, organisations and communities so they can contribute to the reduction of suicide and its impacts.

The Hunter Institute translates evidence into practical resources and approaches that are fit-for-purpose across communities and works in partnership to deliver the best outcomes.

For over 18 years, the Institute has worked with media and other sectors nationally to improve the way we report on and communicate about suicide, to reduce further alienation and combat increased risk of suicide resulting from insensitive media coverage. In contrast, appropriate media coverage can mobilise action, decrease stigma and support early help seeking. Mindframe works nationally with all stakeholders in the media community including news and entertainment media, universities, the mental health sector, police and courts, and was highlighted by the World Health Organization as best practice internationally in its first global report on suicide.

Conversations Matter is a world-first suite of online resources, developed with the support of academics, service providers, people with lived experience and community members across Australia to support community discussion about suicide and provides practical information for individuals, communities and professionals to guide safe and effective conversations. The resources were developed in close partnership with organisations and communities across NSW, with specific resources to support CALD and Aboriginal communities developed in the past year.

In her letter of support, Lucy Brogden said “Over the past 12 months, the Mindframe National Media Initiative and Conversations Matter have made significant contributions … in suicide prevention. I would like to highlight the work that Mindframe has led within the Victorian communities of Casey and Cardinia around… the suspected cluster of youth suicides.

Media Award, presented by Mindframe

Before I announce the recipient of this year’s Media category award, I would first like to acknowledge the Judging Committee’s desire to recognise a finalist as highly commended. Congratulations to ABC journalist Sam Ikin. One judge says “Sam Ikin's poignant reflections on the personal impact of his father's suicide is brave and informative. It is refreshing to see the depth of such lived experience being articulated so eloquently, knowledgeably, prominently. Sam has demonstrated sensitivity in speaking with his subjects, and made and effort to give voice to people who are often silenced through taboo.” Well-done Sam.

Now onto the winner of this category.

The recipient of the Media category award is: The Sunday Telegraph, for the “Can We Talk?”campaign

CAN WE TALK? is an ongoing campaign to break the taboo on discussing youth suicide and mental ill-health, created and driven by The Sunday Telegraph in response to the deaths of several young Sydney schoolchildren in November 2014.

The original front page article in November 2014 was followed by several weeks of reporting on suicides, including families, research, expert advice and policy logjams. In 2015, The Sunday Telegraph partnered with Beyondblue, headspace, Lifeline and Sydney University to host two large Can We Talk fora in Sydney where parents, young people, experts and police were on stage before a packed auditorium.

Following the strong response from these city fora, further sessions were conducted in Newcastle, Dubbo, Wagga and Lismore in September 2015 to coincide with sports clinics run by the NRL.

In 2016 the campaign continued with an April article, interviewing eight of closest family and friends about the impact a recent death has had on them. The following week, another front page story urged people in distress to call Lifeline, Kids Helpline and headspace. The organisations put extra staff on to deal with an expected increase in callers. This year the forums were held in May at Campbelltown, Tamworth and Dubbo, offering real, practical advice for parents and individuals who have concerns about their own or others’ mental ill-health.

One of our judges said “…the articles are all sensitively written, hugely emotive, within Mindframe's guidelines, and the writers have called on opinion from various MHSP experts.”

Talking about suicide is so important, and Sunday Telegraph’s commitment to supporting community conversation in partnership with the sector is an example we’d like to see continue and grow. Many congratulations.

Research Award, presented by Movember Foundation

Before I announce the recipient of this year’s award for this category, I would first like to acknowledge the Judging Committee’s desire to recognise a finalist as highly commended. One of the judges said of Fiona Shand, “It is encouraging to see a researcher who has had such a strong impact in relatively short time in the sector. We need more Fionas working in this space”. Well-done Fiona.

Now onto the winner of this category.

The recipient of the research category award is: Atari Metcalf

Atari Metcalf is a seasoned mental health researcher, evaluator, health promoter and persevering advocate for young people’s mental health, particularly sexuality and gender diverse young people.

Atari has made an incredible contribution to the suicide prevention and youth mental health sectors in a relatively short time, including as principal researcher on a seminal paper with the National LGBTI Health Alliance reviewing Australia’s approach to mental health promotion among LGBTI people.

Atari began his career in this area 13 years ago in Perth’s youth work sector, leading the development of one of the earliest online health promotion resources for same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people. He then led research and evaluation at ReachOut Australia and conducted a range of projects with VicHealth, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Curtin University. Atari co-chaired the board of LGBTQI youth homelessness service Twenty10, where he is now a board director.

In his role at ReachOut, Atari developed innovative early intervention and prevention program logics that to this day ensure the ReachOut service and content are driven by an evidence-based rationale – maximising ReachOut’s capacity to deliver what young people need to live happier and healthier lives. Just prior to leaving ReachOut, Atari established Australia’s largest longitudinal survey of young people using an e-mental health service.

Atari is actively engaged in advocacy for youth mental health, featuring regularly in the media over the last decade including appearances with SBS, News Limited, Joy FM, and The Wire. Additionally, he has presented at a large number of conferences and events including Sydney’s annual Queer Thinking festival, the inaugural LGBTIQ Conference, the Australian Evaluation Society Conference, MindOut webinars and through the Living is For Everyone program. Three of Atari’s papers were presented at the 2015 International Association for Youth Mental Health Conference.

In his letter of support, Mr Aram Hosie, Former Director of Research and Policy at ReachOut Australia, said, “[I] have observed his unfailing commitment to evidence-based approaches in promoting young people’s mental health and suicide prevention.”

The Judging Committee was inspired both by Atari’s years of service to translating research into practice as well as his contribution to the wider sector. Atari is now in his first year of a medical degree and we look forward to his ongoing contribution through the lenses of a practising health professional.

Workplace Award, presented by ComCare

Before I announce the recipient of this year’s award for this category, I would first like to acknowledge the Judging Committee’s desire to recognise a finalist as highly commended. One of the judge’s said, “I am so impressed with the innovation shown by Youth Focus Young Men Project and would like to see them publicly recognised for their creativity in community engagement.” Well-done Youth Focus.

Now onto the winner of this category.

The recipient of the Workplace category award is: Brown’s Store

Brown’s Store IGA Manager Amy Reiner recognises that one of the greatest hurdles to achieving better outcomes for sufferers of mental illness in the workplace was the lack of appropriate training and guidance for those in senior roles.

In 2014-15, in response to a personal experience of her own, manager Amy Reiner sought training and information on how to respond to mental health issues in the workplace and suicide ideation. This equipped her with skills to provide care and support for 14 of their 80 staff members ranging from cleaning staff to senior managers, whose conditions included depression, anxiety, alcohol, marijuana and ice addiction, depression resulting from chronic illness and spousal physical abuse which had resulted in one employee attempting to take their life.

Amy supported vulnerable staff through the provision of information; explaining the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist; information on how to fund an inpatient stay at different hospitals; how private health insurance works; psychiatric waiting periods; and literature about community groups such as ALANON and AA. She also fosters a supportive workplace culture, teaching and guiding all staff on how to recognise when individuals are struggling and how to respond to them appropriately.

Amy was the recipient of a Tasmanian LiFE Award in 2015 and used the prize money to partially fund 16 staff to participate in Australian Mental Health First Aid two-day training sessions. (Brown’s Store funded the major portion of the remaining costs.) Now over 30% of staff has undergone some form of mental health training.

We commend Brown’s Store on their dedication to developing and promoting a workplace culture and practice that has had a significant and positive impact on her employees, staff and their working environment.

Leadership Award, presented by Matthew Tukaki

I am honoured to present this award on behalf of the Suicide Prevention Australia Board.

Last year we recognised and celebrated the outstanding achievements of AISRAP’s Professor Diego de Leo. We continue to recognise his contribution by naming the Conference Opening Address in his honour. This year National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, delivered the Diego de Leo Opening Address.

Tonight, I am delighted to announce the recipient of the 2016 Leadership Award for Excellence in Suicide Prevention.

This award is designed to recognise point in time leadership that is above and beyond day-to-day operations or suicide prevention initiatives. 

This year, the Suicide Prevention Australia Board debated a list of highly deserving award winners. These leaders coming from within the sector as well as those demonstrating leadership in wider business and community sectors.

In a year of mental health and suicide prevention reform; a year of uncertainty in funding and direction, this year’s Leadership Award winner remained steady in her convictions. She held fast to her principles and stood up and spoke up for collaboration and the meaningful inclusion of lived experience in everything we do to prevent suicide.

She has been involved in mental health and suicide prevention issues in various advocacy, advisory, public speaking, research, consultancy and commissioner roles – at the local, state, national and international levels over many years.

She is a woman who challenges us, who guides us, who welcomes new opinions and ways of working. She has often brought a tear to my eye and even more so a smile to my face.

This year’s Leadership Award recipient combines her lived experience, understanding of the grass roots and knowledge of high level strategic policy and planning, with her familiarity with recovery and well-being to shift thinking about mental ill health and suicide. 

Please join me in congratulating the recipient of the 2016 Leadership Award for Excellence in Suicide Prevention, Ms. Jackie Crowe.