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Australia’s finest musicians unite to fight Indigenous suicide

On World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September 2019, some of Australia’s leading musicians will come together for a very special concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to raise funds for the Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health to prevent Indigenous suicide.

Concert for Life will see musicians from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia Orchestra unite to form the ‘Orchestra for Life’ for an evening that promises to be one of the year’s musical highlights. The orchestra will be conducted by Roger Benedict, Chief Conductor at the Sydney Conservatorium and Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Fellowship Program.

Orchestra for Life will be joined on stage by celebrated piano soloist Simon Tedeschi and the Sydney Childrens Choir, conducted by Sam Allchurch, to present an inspiring program that includes Ravel’s Pavne, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and Bizet’s Carmen Suite no.1.

Presented in Association with Suicide Prevention Australia, Concert for Life is a response to the heartbreaking statistics of Indigenous suicide in Australia. Alarmingly, 40% of child deaths in Indigenous communities are by suicide, and the percentage of youth suicides that are Indigenous rose from 10% in 1991 to a staggering 80% in 2012. The likelihood that Aboriginal people will self-harm is six times greater compared to non-Aboriginal people.

Roger reflects on the inspiration to bring the concert back for a second time, “the first Concert for Life in 2015 brought musicians together from three different orchestras, and that incredible generosity of spirit helped us raise vital funds and awareness for suicide prevention” Roger said, “but, when I saw the shocking statistics on Indigenous suicide, I realised the concert had to return. We can’t let this appalling situation continue, and I believe that the program we are supporting will have real benefits for Indigenous communities on country”.

Profits from the concert will benefit the Westerman Jilya Institute and the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program. Delivered in partnership with WA’s Curtin University, the scholarship program aims to train more Indigenous psychologists to deliver best-practice care in our highest-risk remote communities.

The scholarships provide eligible students with $10,000/year to help with their study, living and transport costs. Dr Westerman established the program in October 2018 with a personal donation of $50,000. It was a direct response to decades of escalating child suicides in remote areas in which the absence of specialist programs and services was consistently cited by bereaved families as a vital gap. Dr Westerman aims to make this program available nationally.

“Across Australia, Indigenous suicides occur at double the rate of non-Indigenous suicides,” Dr Westerman said, “As a proud Njamal woman, my vision is to support and mentor Aboriginal students with rural and remote connections to become psychologists, skilled in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention best practice and take these skills back into our highest risk, remote communities”.

Those wishing to donate before the concert can do so at the event’s Australian Cultural Fund project page. Every donation over $2 is tax-deductible.

Source: Concert for Life

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