Australia

Kimberley Indigenous child suicides shaped by inter-generational trauma, WA coroner says

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Coroner Ros Fogliani says the spate of suicides involving Indigenous youths is "profoundly tragic, collectively and individually".

A spate of suicides among young Aboriginal people in Western Australia's northernmost region were shaped by the crushing effect of inter-generational trauma and poverty, a coroner says.

Of the 13 Indigenous people who took their own lives over a three-and-a-half year period in the Kimberley, five were aged between 10 and 13.

Coroner Ros Fogliani handed down her findings from a lengthy 2017 inquest on Thursday, saying it was increasingly being accepted colonisation had a deleterious effect on an ancient and traditional culture.

File picture of State Coroner Ros Fogliani.
File picture of State Coroner Ros Fogliani.
AAP/The West Australian/Trevor Collens

The youths often lived in dysfunctional homes, and the alcohol abuse and domestic violence they were exposed to had a lasting effect.

Some had gone on to suffer domestic violence in their own relationships towards the end of their short lives.

Some had experienced sexual abuse, which was often not reported.

Several had siblings or relatives who had also taken their own lives.

The case of the 10-year-old girl was particularly distressing, with the inquest court hearing her death in the remote community of Looma came three years after her sister took her own life.

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Professor Pat Dudgeon on WA coroner report
Professor Pat Dudgeon on WA coroner report

Read more: Indigenous youth suicide at crisis point

Other common themes included poor nutrition, preventable medical conditions, low school attendance and a lack of opportunities.

Most of the youths had no contact with mental health services and while none had been diagnosed foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, there was sufficient evidence that some had suffered from the condition.

"The deaths are profoundly tragic, collectively and individually," Ms Fogliani said.

She handed down 42 recommendations, including suggestions relating to FASD and inclusive cultural healing programs such as taking youths out on country to reconnect with their culture and family.

Readers needing mental health support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, SANE Australia Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263)  or MensLine Australia  on 1300 78 99 78.

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