Mary Victor O'Reeri

Suicide prevention advocate

2011 WA Local Hero

After Mary O’Reeri’s two brothers died from suicide two years apart, she decided to take action. Through her work as a primary school teacher, grandmother and foster carer, Mary knew that the solution lay in collective effort. In 2009, Mary convened the inaugural Blank Page Summit in her remote community at Billard in the north west Kimberley. Her goal was to stop the epidemic of suicide by Indigenous people, through inviting individuals with the will and capacity to effect fundamental and lasting change to create an action plan. People came to the Summit from communities across Australia representing fields as diverse as child protection, land management, justice, mental health, sport and recreation, counselling, education, disability, academia, government, politics and a range of community-led initiatives. The results were immediate and tangible as people focused on creating ‘suicide proof’ communities in the wake of the Summit. In
2010 the Blank Page Summit focused on the conversations (‘hard yarns’) people need to have to improve attitudes and relationships, particularly where there are intractable social problems that defy orthodox problem solving strategies. Mary’s work demonstrates the profound impact of grass roots initiative and leadership in resolving trauma and preserving life.