Aboriginal Suicide – The Highest Rates in the World

Outliving a child is a reality that no parent should have to face. When it is due to their precious child taking their own life, they will spend the rest of their lives asking ‘why?’

This is a sad reality for so many Indigenous families in Western Australia. Too many children are taken far too soon. The harsh consequences of poverty and substance abuse results in just the tip of the iceberg being exposed.

Suicide is the end of a tortured life. Early intervention procedures are very necessary. The underlying beast is chronic mental illness. A person cutting themselves is crying out for help and we need to respond with a resounding ‘yes, we are willing to help!’

For every successful suicide, there are multitudes of unsuccessful attempts. These don’t make the statistics, nor does the person’s pain.

Too long, has this issue gone underfunded, unacknowledged and the people most in need have fallen through the cracks in this flawed system. 

A grieving mother who lost her child to suicide tearfully describes, “it was like death inside of me.”

Only 2% of the population of Australians are Indigenous. The suicide rate amongst Indigenous Australians is the highest in the world.

The Indigenous population in NSW is the largest in the country, yet the suicide rate here is only 1 death in every 100,000. The rate of suicides in the Northern Territory is 30 deaths every 100,000 and the Kimberley is 80 deaths in a 100,000.

Children as young as 11 years of age are ending their lives. When a child is feeling suicidal, it is evident that something is very wrong.

Racism is a contributing factor and many people turn their backs on Indigenous people because of pre-conceived ideas that are bred by misinformed people and a biased media.

If you had your land taken away and everything you held sacred in the world, how would you feel? If somebody took away your children with no explanation except ‘this is for your own good’, would you turn to substance abuse as a way to cope?

Many of us complain about Asylum Seekers coming to our land and taking our jobs, but weren’t we the original Asylum Seekers of this great land?

Superiority of the white race has to stop. No one life is worth more than another. If we spent more time really listening and not judging with a stern look and a cold heart, then we would be far happier as we embrace every person as an equal.

Indigenous communities are in dire need of mental health reform. Do not turn your backs. Your fellow man needs you.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, UWA Indigenous studies, discusses plans for new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Committees across the state.

“We plan to have a resource centre in every community from Joondalup to Armadale.”

Professor Pat Dudgeon

The biggest problem with programs in the Indigenous communities is the lack of continuity. As expressed by prominent Nyoongah elders, “the government introduces these programs and as soon as the community starts to get ahead, the funding and support is taken away, leaving us to start all over again.

Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation has tabled an initiative that they submitted to parliament on May 21, 2013, demanding action on Aboriginal Suicide. For too long the government has done far too little and now it is time to address it.

It’s time to stop telling Aboriginal people how they should be feeling and what strategies will work for them. It’s time to actually listen and take the time to sit and talk with an Aboriginal person. They know what they want and what will work for them. They need to be trusted to know what’s right for their people and their communities.

The resounding message to all Aboriginal people in despair and at the point of breaking, don’t give up. Please, don’t ever give up. Your life is worth so much more than that.

May your campfires burn forever.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary 2013

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