• Warren Mundine and Prime Minister Scott Morrison speak to reporters earlier this year. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Liberal Party’s candidate for Gilmore says there are more urgent issues to address - drawing attention to the five Indigenous girls who took their lives.
Douglas Smith

23 Jan 2019 - 5:27 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2019 - 5:27 PM

Scott Morrison's hand-picked candidate for the federal seat of Gilmore is at firm odds with the Prime Minister over Australia Day.

Warren Mundine, who has formally entered the race for the NSW south coast seat, admits he wants the date changed from January 26 - in opposition to the PM.

But the political commentator said there were "a hundred different things" he would like to fix first.

"I want to deal with those five suicides of those young girls that happened in the last few weeks," Mr Mundine said.

“When I was their age, I wanted to kick the football around the backyard, I saw the world as my oyster, and wanted to get out there and get a job, get educated, and have a great life. These kids are choosing death before life. We’ve got to deal with those issues before we start talking about changing Australia Day."

"We've got to deal with jobs in those rural and remote communities, where people are actually trapped in welfare traps. We've got to deal with incarceration rates of Aboriginal people in juvenile detention and jail. These are my priorities. That’s what I’ll be working on."

Indigenous youth suicide at crisis point
Experts say more needs to be done after five Aboriginal youth suicides and a sixth in hospital after a suspected suicide attempt in first weeks of the new year.

Five Aboriginal girls have died from suicide in the past fortnight, highlighting the shocking over-representation of Indigenous children in statistics.

Earlier this week, the prime minister Scott Morrison described the deaths as heart-breaking, noting “very serious” social issues in some communities.

While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up five per cent of Australia's children, 40 per cent of those aged between five and 17 who died by suicide in the past year were Indigenous.

“We have to confront our inadequacies of the country," Mr Morrison told 2GB on Monday.

"We just have to keep doing everything we can to try and keep these girls safe in these communities."

Mr Morrison said he had raised the matter with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and senior bureaucrats.

"I've spoken to my own department because I'm very concerned about it," he said.

He said some children were finding themselves in the "most awful" of circumstances.

"There are some very serious social issues in these communities," the prime minister said.

"There are, distressingly, not as many opportunities where people who are under threat are able to talk about these things."

Indigenous commentator Celeste Liddle said the government preferred to avoid such issues except when they were trying to “denigrate the activism being undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

The Liberal Party has recently launched a new campaign "to protect Australia Day from activists" but Ms Liddle said that “the ongoing impacts of colonisation” were among the reasons why many Aboriginal people would be protesting on January 26.

“Perhaps it's time they all stopped talking and started actually listening,” she told NITV.

With AAP

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, young people can contact Headspace Yarn Safe, or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here.