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Liberal MP to head new suicide prevention taskforce | The Advertiser

Daniel Wills | The Advertiser

VETERAN Liberal MP John Dawkins will head a new State Government council on suicide prevention, aiming to tackle a problem that claims more lives than road accidents.

Premier Steven Marshall will announce Mr Dawkins’ appointment today.

He will have the official title of Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention and work closely with Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade on reforming policy and services.

Mr Dawkins was elected to Parliament in 1997 and has been a longtime advocate for suicide reduction.

Last week, both he and colleague Terry Stephens withdrew planned nominations for Upper House President. That left fellow Liberal Andrew McLachlan to take the job unopposed.

Mr Marshall said the Government was acting early on campaign commitments for preventive health and wellbeing with the establishment of the Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention.

In September, the former Labor government released a five-year suicide prevention plan that centred on more training for healthcare staff and university partnerships for more research.

It followed the death of 13- year-old southern suburbs girl Libby Bell. The Seaford Secondary student took her own life after what her family said was a sustained cyber-bullying and physical abuse campaign by school peers.

Latest figures show the suicide rate in SA is higher than the national average, at 13.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015.

A total 236 South Australians took their lives in that year.

Mr Dawkins said it was “a great honour” to accept the new role.

“The tragedy of suicide claims too many lives, touching many families and friends in its wake,” he said.

“The council will build on the vital work of the state’s suicide prevention networks and associated voluntary groups.

“I will devote myself to delivering improvements in policy and services that will help reduce the impact of suicide in our community.”