An inquest into a disturbing cluster of suicides by Aboriginal youths in Western Australia's far north will hear how bereavement stress is causing Indigenous children to despair.
Of the 13 cases between November 2012 and March last year, five were children aged between 10 and 13, including two sisters.
One of the deceased, a 23-year-old man, had lost five family members in five years before he took his own life.
"Familial transmission of suicide risk, particularly involving parental and sibling suicide, along with early experiences of trauma and substance abuse within communities, is strongly linked to suicide attempts in Aboriginal children and young people," counsel assisting the coroner Philip Urquhart said during opening submissions on Monday.
Professor Ted Wilkes, a Nyoongar man, told the inquest on Tuesday that some young Aboriginal people had more than 20 stressful events in their lives each year, including losing loved ones, domestic violence and being evicted from their homes.
Professor Judy Atkinson, a Jiman/Bundjalung woman, will also address violence in the home as well as sexual abuse, which Prof Wilkes says leaves young victims particularly vulnerable to self-harm.
He spoke powerfully on intergenerational trauma, saying young people who can't see positivity on the horizon and witness their family doing it tough are left feeling very demoralised.
Prof Wilkes, an Order of Australia recipient, said solutions to complex problems facing Aboriginal Australians, such as the abuse of alcohol to escape poverty, could only be effective if they were driven by community elders and family leaders.
"If you own something, you're more likely to succeed," he said. "The paternalism of the systems of the past has to stop.
"We need Aboriginal leaders now to be given the right to control the pathways out of poverty."
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact
Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS