SUICIDE PREVENTION

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS(15:21:03): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question regarding suicideā€‘prevention training in journalism and public relations education.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: As I have previously stated in this place, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health (which I visited about 12 months ago) is the leading national organisation dedicated to reducing mental illness and suicide and improving wellbeing for all Australians. The institute has a program known as 'Mindframe' which provides valuable resources for educators and students in journalism, public relations and related communications programs at the tertiary level.

Previously known as 'response ability', the resource is now called Mindframe for journalism and public relations education, and is designed to provide students and teachers with the information and background knowledge they require to accurately approach news reporting of suicide or mental illness when they move into professional practice.

The resource was developed in consultation with the media, public relations professionals, academics and suicide prevention and mental-health experts. The basis for the program is to provide budding journalists with the skills to reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with a mental illness, inform appropriate reporting and communication about suicide and mental illness, and, most of all, minimise harm and copycat behaviour.

Mindframe achieves all this by influencing the tertiary curriculum and ingraining a set of professional ethics so that graduates have the skills to appropriately report and respond to issues relating to suicide and mental illness. My questions are:

1.What is the minister and her department currently doing to ensure graduates from government-funded media, public relations and journalism-related courses are being given the skills through the current curriculum to appropriately report on issues relating to mental illness and suicide prevention and particularly prevent copycat behaviour in the wider community?

2.Has the minister, or her department, insisted on the use of Mindframe, or similar resources, in media, public relations and journalism courses conducted by government-funded institutions? If not, will the minister consider it?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(15:23:40): I thank the honourable member for his most important question and his ongoing interest and passion for suicide prevention. Being the former minister for mental health, amongst other things, and a former health-care professional, it is also an area that I have a keen interest in. In relation to the training for media and journalists, I am not familiar with the details of those courses in particular, and I am happy to take a closer look at them.

The usual process for those courses is to have strong industry input into the development of a contemporary and relevant curriculum. I imagine that would include all appropriate information around codes of conduct, professional codes and suchlike. I understand these suicide protocols for media would be outlined in that. Indeed, it is an important protocol because it lays down particular standards or expectations in relation to the way that the media reveals information about suicides. There is well-established data that indicates that if it is not done in a highly sensitive and careful way, the release of certain information or images can excite others to perform copycat suicide activities.

The normal practice is for all relevant industry to have input into curriculum development. I assume that this occurs for our media training courses and courses for journalists. As I said, I cannot categorically confirm that but I am confident that that would be the case. I am happy to investigate that further to determine that it is so.