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Issue #1727      April 20, 2016

Inquiry looks at youth suicides

A parliamentary inquiry will examine Aboriginal youth suicides in Western Australia after a 10-year-old girl took her own life in the Kimberley region.

State coroner Ros Fogliani has announced she will hold an inquest into several suspected suicides in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions, while suicide prevention researcher Gerry Georgatos has called for a Royal Commission.

The Education and Health Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly has announced it will conduct a parliamentary inquiry following a motion by Kimberley MP Josie Farrer.

In a statement, the committee said it would report in November on what could be done to halt the worrying number of suicides among Aboriginal youths, particularly in remote communities.

It will also determine what resources have been set aside to tackle the issue.

Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) Professor Pat Dudgeon, of the Bardi people of the Kimberley, said suicide could not be examined in isolation.

“There needs to be a holistic approach, absolutely,” she said. “Read our reports, we’ve already started presenting some findings on our website.

“About mid-year we’ll be providing a report. We’ve been evaluating suicide prevention programs, working on culturally-appropriate suicide prevention tools, holding community round tables, so we can get as much community input as possible.

“We recognise that solutions need to be holistic, because everything is interconnected. The history of colonisation is very important, as is recognising social-determinant oriented factors.”

As one of its many arms of research, the ATSISPEP recently released a paper regarding Indigenous Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) people.

“Vulnerable groups”

“Within our group there are vulnerable groups as well,” Professor Dudgeon said. “I hope that our big thrust is that there needs to be leadership on all Indigenous issues, from a national to regional level. What I’d like to see – and we have one – is the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention strategy to be implemented and communities to be resourced so they can address suicide themselves.

“There are two major issues. The first is recognising that this is culturally different, and the second is to work in partnerships with community and our organisations.”

Farrer told the Koori Mail that government needed to work with community, rather than dictating. “We’re still living with suicides,” she said.

“More needs to be done, we’ve talked about ideas and programs to help nurture the minds of our people, help them to grow. It’s not all about money.

“We need to work strongly and together to overcome a lot of these things – and it has to be by community. We are the people who are affected by reforms.”

Koori Mail


Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline (young people aged 5-25) on 1800 55 1800 78.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services can be found at www.naccho.org.au or www.sewbmh.org.au or www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au

Next article – Turnbull escalates war on the poor

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