Indigenous Leaders Call For Action As 2019 Aboriginal Suicide Toll Reaches 38

The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention has called for government action in regards to Aboriginal suicide rates, as the 2019 toll reaches 38 in just 12 weeks.

CBPATSISP spoke to NITV this week. Leilani Darwin, First Nations suicide consultant and spokesperson for CBPATSISP said the group wants to see funding given to Aboriginal-led organisations so they can provide real-time response and strong leadership. She says the group also wants to see the suicide rates declared a crisis.

“We’re saying that [if] we have bipartisan support from government, then they need to actually step up to the page [and] declare the fact that this is a crisis, because if this was happening among non-Indigenous people at [similar] rates … It would be on the front page of every newspaper.”

According to Gerry Georgatos from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service, two thirds of the 38 suicides were Aboriginal persons under the age of 26, with three being just 12 years old. An earlier article from NITV reported that January alone saw five Aboriginal girls under the age of 15 die by suicide, with the youngest being a 12-year-old from a town near Adelaide, and a 12-year-old from Port Hedland.

The push for political recognition comes with the Federal election looming – both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten have remained silent regarding Aboriginal suicide rates.

Another Indigenous leader NITV spoke to regarding the crisis is Rod Little, Co-Chair of National Congress of Australia’s First People. He wants to see funding put into research around the reasons for 2019’s high suicide rate.

“It certainly is devastating news to hear that, and as a nation we should be totally embarrassed about allowing this to occur in the Australian society. To take little to no action that I have seen… for 35 lives lost this year alone – and we are only in the third month– is pretty horrendous. We can assume that poverty is one of those issues, discrimination, racism, low health status, unemployment, you can rattle off a whole range of things that make up an individual’s whole life, that they feel they are under so much pressure of pain that they have to self-harm, or take their own life.”

This week, R U OK? launched a campaign addressing suicide prevention among Indigenous Australians, featuring ex-footy star Joe Williams, a Wiradjuri man who played in the National Rugby League for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs.

Hopefully the increased conversation occurring around the crisis, coupled with the looming election will result in government action.