Action needed on indigenous youth deaths

A Queensland coroner has recommended specific strategies are needed to address the number of suicides among young indigenous Australians.

Specific strategies are needed to address the disproportionate suicide rate of indigenous youth, Queensland's coroner has recommended.

Coroner Terry Ryan made the recommendation on Tuesday when he delivered his findings of an inquest into the deaths of two 16-year-old boys who were among six young people to take their own lives in Mackay in 2007 and 2008.

Since the deaths, the issue of youth suicide had received greater attention, but Mr Ryan pointed out no data showed a reduction.

The annual suicide rate for indigenous children, aged between 10 and 17 years, is more than six times higher than for other youth in Queensland.

In his findings, Mr Ryan said marginalised youth, such as the two 16-year-old boys, were unwilling to deal with welfare services, which needed to better accommodate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The boys, who can't be named for legal reasons, both had criminal history, suffered depression and were estranged from family members.

The first boy took his own life after prolonged paint sniffing after he was assaulted by his sister while under the influence of solvents.

The second boy had been deeply affected by the suicide of a friend and was assessed as not suffering from a mental illness despite several episodes of self-harm.

Mr Ryan found authorities had failed to intervene before the boys developed behaviours that excluded them from school, were exposed to alcohol and drugs and ended up on a "seemingly inevitable trajectory into the criminal justice system".

"It appears that when confronted by an unwillingness by the families to engage, Child Safety simply closed their files," he said.

"A continued failure to respond early to childhood neglect, loss and trauma will continue to ensure that such young men will accumulate all of the significant risk factors for suicide."

Mr Ryan recommended the Queensland Suicide Prevention Action plan include specific strategies aimed at addressing the disproportionate suicide rate of indigenous youth.

He also recommended the Mackay community's effective response to the suicide cluster, which resulted in a greater co-ordination of prevention services, be considered for the action plan.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Source AAP

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