Westcoast News

Seeing Change in Western Australia

Heidi Fuelling

by Heidi Fuelling, Ministry Leader of Revive


It is tragic that a young child would be so trapped in a sense of hopelessness… it’s a tragedy that needs to be heard across the nation… (Gerry Georgatos)

When a young person takes their own life, devastation can be a word to describe the aftermath for friends, family, and whole communities. In March of this year, the nation reeled at the news of the death of a 10 year old girl in the community of Looma, located 70 km south of Derby in the Kimberley. The ABC quoted Gerry Georgatos, part of a Federal Government taskforce providing crisis support to families affected by suicide: “It is tragic that a young child would be so trapped in a sense of hopelessness… it’s a tragedy that needs to be heard across the nation…” This incident is not an isolated event, with the Kimberley region, Western Australia, recording the highest suicide rate in the world.

Suicides per 100,000 people.

According to Creative Spirits, there were 70 suicides per 100,000 people in 2014 in the Kimberley; the overall national rate in Australia is 11 suicides per 100,000; 44 suicides per 100,000 in Guyana, South America.

Tori Banks
Tori Banks

These tragedies cause many people pain, and leaves dozens heartbroken. (Tori)

Tori Banks, 19 years old and from Halls Creek, comments that suicides and car accidents are one of the main challenges for young people and families in the Kimberley. “These tragedies cause many people pain, and leaves dozens heartbroken. It’s very sad to see, hear and know people are left fighting battles emotionally, and mentally, and are not talking about things that they’re up against.”

The ABC has reported that the town of Leonora, in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields has also been devastated recently, losing four young people from the community to suicide since Christmas, all of them Aboriginal.

Loretta Donaldson with her daughter.
Loretta Donaldson with her daughter.

When young kids haven’t experienced love at home they go elsewhere as teenagers to experience it. (Loretta)

This is not an uncommon scenario according to Loretta Donaldson. Having grown-up in the Goldfields, and as a single parent, Loretta describes some of the challenges for her people to be: “A lack of identity – young people recognising who they are and the need of positive role models to replace bad influences. Without strong parents, teenagers get their own way. When young kids haven’t experienced love at home they go elsewhere as teenagers to experience it.”


What is YWAM Perth doing to meet this great need of hope in Western Australia?

Looma is one of a number of communities YWAM Perth has been reaching out to over the past 5 years. Following the tragic suicide in Looma, permanent staff members located in the Kimberley were invited by the church to talk with community and church leaders. Our Revive team, whose ministry focuses on restoring significance to the lives of marginalised youth, will go again in July this year. Other staff and students on their Discipleship Training School will also facilitate after-school programs at the youth centre that has not had an employed youth worker for a number of years.

In Kununurra, East Kimberley, our Families Alive Team and counselling staff have been compiling a needs analysis of the region. Their heart is to strengthen what already exists by partnering with local churches as they walk alongside indigenous families. At Kununurra District High School, where indigenous youth make up around 50% of the students, Revive collaborated with the Chaplain to develop an Anti-Bullying program with 25 student council representatives at the school. “No-one has come to our school to develop a program that has been tailored to each year level” commented one teacher. These class leaders are now facilitating weekly sessions for their peers for the next six weeks until the Revive Team returns to follow-up in July.

IMG_2944_Editsm IMG_2764_Editsm

Other involvement include: Rob and Andrea Taylor, YWAM Perth staff who re-located permanently to Kununurra in 2013. They have been connecting and partnering with Churches across the region, interceding in prayer for unity and serving practically to support the church as a whole. As well as this, the Media Art and Photography Discipleship Training School will travel to the Kimberley to use their training to advocate for the needs of the region. YWAM Perth staff will help facilitate two High School Youth Camps in partnership with local church leaders. Cygnet Films and our Children at Risk School will help run a youth program at a church convention in Halls Creek for over 15 different communities across the Kimberley in August. They will also serve in Mowamjum – an area devastated by a spate of suicides in the years 2012-2013. Beyond those teams, the 4WD Discipleship Training School has five vehicles travelling to remote communities to engage children and youth in activities. This list is not exhaustive as other YWAM Perth teams, ministries and schools continue to engage with the crisis.

Tori and Loretta, having both completed Discipleship Training with YWAM Perth, are part of this commitment to meet the need. Loretta also completed the Children at Risk School, and is enrolled in a Foundations in Education School in July. Tori has been accepted for a Foundations for Counselling School in October. Her vision is to develop a basketball and counselling program for remote communities in the Kimberley.

Opportunity is one of the blessed things that only a few find. Probably only 2% of us really discover what and how we can make home a better place to provide opportunity for the next generation. (Tori)

Indeed, education, and young people finding jobs, is key. Tori explains: “The struggles that we face are very serious, not many adults back at home have jobs. Not many children see what the future would be like education wise. I know for sure that it is going to be hard, but when we push forward to the things that are yet to come, we will feel the benefit of why Education is important. It helps you to go further in life, earn for your living and support your dreams.”

And as YWAM Perth, we’re behind these young leaders all the way. We are positioned uniquely with multilayered and multi-disciplined teams, to be in faith for things to come: the healing that is greatly needed, and the provision of opportunities. God has clearly directed us to establish our roots in Perth city, in the state of Western Australia. A city disciples a state – and work in Perth city has impact regionally, as far east as the Goldfields, and as far north as the Kimberley.

After stepping out in obedience, we have seen favour relationally, and the beginnings of a shift from devastation to hope in regional communities.


Would you like to know more about our involvement in Western Australia? Contact us at [email protected].


Westcoast News July 2016

This article was published in the
July 2016 edition of Westcoast News.

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