Aboriginal mothers die from external causes like accidents, suicides and homicides at a rate over six times higher than other mothers in Western Australia. And in most cases they left behind very young children, with traumatic results.
NITV Staff Writers

13 Jul 2016 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 14 Jul 2016 - 10:03 AM

Those are the grim findings of a study by the Telethon Kids Institute, which crunched data from four State bodies for the 27 years between 1983 and 2010.

“Maternal loss can have a particularly traumatic impact on children and their development,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr Carrington Shepherd.

“This can include prolonged periods of grief, depression, stress, anxiety, problems with identity development, the difficulties associated with the transition to out-of-home care, and the onward elevated risks of substance abuse and suicide in later life.”

The study, published in BMC Public Health, also found:

  • Aboriginal mothers are 17.5 times more likely to die of homicide
  • They are 3.5 times more likely to suicide
  • They often leave behind a child under five
  • Poverty and housing go to explaining half of these excess risks

For children left behind, studies on the impact of life stress, including parental loss, show that trauma in early life can lead to substance abuse, self-harming, suicide, anti-social behaviour, and other adversities into adulthood.

The study concluded that more research should be done on the risk factors associated with these potentially preventable deaths so better health strategies could be rolled out.

Head of Aboriginal Research Development Mr Glenn Pearson said the findings were compelling and confirmed the need for researchers, health professionals and policy makers to continue to work together to implement evidence based solutions.

“Policies, interventions and health promotion that promote healthy mental wellbeing, prevent and manage substance abuse, reducing domestic violence, and the stresses associated with the persistent marginalisation of Aboriginal people in present day Australian society, are all likely to protect mothers and their children from these preventable events,” Mr Pearson said.