In some remote communities in the Kimberley, youth suicide rates have reached 100 times the national average. Aboriginal Elders are now taking their fight to tackle the problem all the way to Canberra.
By
Gary Cox

15 Apr 2014 - 7:08 AM  UPDATED 16 Apr 2014 - 2:27 PM

Aboriginal Elders from across Australia have united to tackle the alarming rate of Indigenous youth suicide.

The Elders have written a report and launched a campaign to lobby Canberra for a new approach they hope could save a generation.

In Western Australia's Kimberley, 'Culture is Life' Director Max Dulumunmun Harrison has spent half of his 80 years taking young men bush, teaching them the key to life -- Aboriginal law, culture and connection to land.

"To look at our suicide rate! Our suicide rate is, wow, it's blown out of proportion," he told SBS.

A year ago, $18 million was earmarked to establish a network of local suicide-prevention centres, but Uncle Max says that's not working.

"People aren't looking at it fair dinkum, it's just another black fella dying you know."

Over two years he's worked with Elders across the country to document more traditional ways stop the heartache.

Djalinda Ulamari, from Yirrkala, Northern Territory, says the Elders are burying their young at an alarming rate, and it's breaking their hearts.

"Sometimes you know you wanna sit under a tree and cry because you know you've lost your dear ones," she said.

The Elders' new 'Be Part of the Healing' campaign is promoting community led solutions to suicide.

"What we wanna do is reconnect young people with their culture, Fitzroy Crossing Elder Dean Gooda said.

Maningrida resident, Marita Wilton, knows how hard it is to be young and Indigenous.

"We have two worlds. We don't know which world we have to like follow, maybe this part of the world or the Aboriginal one," she explained.

Joe Brown from Fitzroy Crossing says the solution is more simple than Canberra can accept.

"You gotta take em out and talk to 'em you know, and talk to them with their language," he says.

"That way they'll know their culture and, you know, know who they are."

They want their Elders' Report Into Preventing Indigenous Self Harm and Youth Suicide on Tony Abbott's reading list.

The group of Elders' 'Be Part of the Healing' campaign promotes community-led solutions to suicide.

Uncle Max says it's time Tony Abbott kept his promise of being the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

"Come and see me Tony, come and sit with me brother and we'll show ya," he said.

He wants to show the Prime Minister their grass-roots approach can stop suicides.

The Elders have also launched a petition to end what they call top down health and social services that don't work in the worst affected areas like the Pilbara and Top End.

There is a growing sense of urgency and frustration among Aboriginal elders that to talk about Closing The Gap is a waste of money and a waste of young lives.

Darwin resident Sylvia Ngulbinditj says there is plenty of proof the existing policies don't work.

"How come government people seem to concentrate on that and put money towards that but there's no outcome, there's no changes made there - why?"

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. 

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