Tormented by shockingly high youth suicide rates, a group of Indigenous elders has united to save a generation.
Murray Silby

15 Apr 2014 - 3:04 PM  UPDATED 15 Apr 2014 - 4:43 PM

(Transcript from World News Radio)


Tormented by youth suicide rates in their communities up to 100 times the national average, a group of Indigenous elders has united to save a generation.


Hoping to tackle the alarming rate of Indigenous youth suicide, the elders have launched a campaign lobbying the Federal Government for a new approach.


Murray Silby reports.


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In some of Australia's remote Indigenous communities suicide has reached epidemic proportions.


In Western Australia's Kimberley, Culture is Life Director Max Dulumunmun Harrison has spent half of his 80 years taking young men into the bush.


He says the key to saving young Indigenous lives is reminding them of their connection to Aboriginal law, culture and the land.


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


Mr Harrison says $18-million earmarked a year ago to establish a network of local suicide-prevention centres is not working.


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


Instead, he's spent two years working with Elders across the country to document more traditional ways the heartache can be stopped.


Wayne Bergmann is also from the Kimberley region and says governments don't trust Aboriginal people to find their own solutions and tell them instead to be grateful for measures, that don't work, being imposed on them.


"It's all about not trusting Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and putting in place contractors and outside service providers that come in and deliver those services. It is little wonder if this is on the mark, it is little wonder there is an epidemic in suicide because government policy is 'for your own good', disempowering Aboriginal people, taking greater self control and responsibility for dealing with our own."


Joe Brown, from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, says it's about helping Indigenous youth find their own identity.


"You've got to take them out and talk to them and talk to them with their language. That way they'll know their culture and, you know, know who they are."


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


Campaign director Peter McConchie says it's hoped the initiative will mean voices from Aboriginal communities will be heard.


"It's vital to get the words of the poeple who are experiencing the loss and tragedy to speak for themselves and not for it to be done by an outsider."


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 Pilbera and Top End.


Djalinda Ulamari, from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, says it's desperate times for Indigenous coomunities.


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