• Grace, the mother of a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide last year. (Change.org)Source: Change.org
Powerful Western Australian community organisations are standing behind a petition demanding the government stop talking and start acting on Indigenous suicides.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV News
25 Jan 2019 - 3:45 PM  UPDATED 25 Jan 2019 - 3:45 PM

Western Australian Indigenous community leaders have come together to demand an end to the government's spending on suicide research and consultations, and instead direct it to on-the-ground services.

The call comes after five Aboriginal children committed suicide across the country in a period of just nine days.

Experts said they are concerned the unreported toll could be even higher.

Now the chief executive of the WA Aboriginal Legal Service (ALSWA) and a chairperson of the state's Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) are getting behind a petition demanding less talk and more action.

Launched by Meagan Krakouer from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service (NICRS), the petition includes words from Grace, one mother who lost her 15-year-old daughter.

"It's the worst feeling in the world to lose someone so precious," she said. "Someone so young and someone who had such a bright future. My daughter was so loved and respected, and it breaks my heart every single day to no longer have her with me - I cry every day."

"We need community programs, we need our kids to be supported and positively engaged with in meaningful opportunities. I'm speaking out because I never want other families, whether black, white or brown, to experience what I have and still am. Enough is enough."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics last month revealed Indigenous children aged between five and 17 died from suicide-related deaths at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

This rate was 10.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017, compared with 2 deaths by suicide per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children.

One in four people who took their own life before turning 18-years-old were Aboriginal children.

National co-ordinator of the NICRS, Gerry Georgatos said money to address the issue is being spent the wrong way.

"Raising awareness of suicide prevention is not suicide prevention," Mr Georgatos told NITV.

"When they tell people to reach out, how do they do that in communities? [Reach out] to who, to what, to where?"

Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) chairperson Sandy Davis said much of the spending was a waste of money.

"Millions of dollars have been spent on research over the last ten years Australia wide, while suicide and youth suicide has gotten so bad it is out of control," she said.

"Between January 3 and January 11 this year, five young girls between the age of 11 and 15 years old have taken their own lives around Australia one each from Queensland, South Australia and three from Western Australia, these are the only ones we know of and there maybe more."

ALSWA's Uncle Dennis Eggington said he wants to see resources directed to Aboriginal controlled organisations who have a strong understanding of their communities.

"We as Aboriginal people need to be given the range and opportunity in finding our own solutions. We shouldn't forget the people who are suffering who have been affected by suicides," said Uncle Dennis.

"The level of trauma to those remaining need to be addressed. The trauma that follows can and have triggered other suicides in families. The support for those need to be long term, not just for a couple of weeks.

"I support that no funding for academic research into this compounding issue - we want change to support those at a grassroots level."

An emergency Ministerial meeting has been called in Perth today to discuss the issue.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14; the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800