• Federal Indigenous Health Minister, Ken Wyatt will immediately roll out the new funding after meeting to address WA suicides. (AAP)Source: AAP
An emergency meeting is held in Western Australia after the rate of Indigenous youth suicides this year rises to almost one every three days.
Rangi Hirini

27 Jan 2019 - 12:20 AM  UPDATED 27 Jan 2019 - 12:32 AM

What has been reported as five suicides in the first nine days of the year has now been confirmed to be eight.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, announced $3 million dollars will immediately flow to Western Australia to target measures that can decrease the loss of young Indigenous lives to suicide. 

“We lost young people who cannot be replaced. We don’t know the true reason why somebody would take their life,” he told the media on Friday. 

Half of the new funding will go towards ambassadors in West Australian’s hardest hit regions, the Pilbara and Kimberley.

“Our youth has said we need to have local heroes, local role models,” Minister Wyatt said.

The Kimberley region had the highest suicide rates in the country from 2012-2016. There was a coronial inquest into the suicides of 13 children with findings to be released next month.

Two of the Kimberley ambassadors were at the conference, Jacob Corpus from Broome and Montana Ah Won from Kununurra.

Ms Ah Won is a youth worker and represented the Kimberley at the United Nations Indigenous Issues Forum last year. She has been appointed the ambassador for the East Kimberley. 

“With my work that I do ..., trying to find a child even as young as 12 without trauma, they all have baggage on them. You’re born into it and if you’re’ not directly affected, it's someone you know or a distant relative,” she said.

“The question is: who hasn’t been affected by suicide?”

Mr Corpus has been volunteering his time and money to helping combat the issue of suicide in his community. He said the funding will take the financial pressure off of himself and others.

“Our voices have been misrepresented at the table. Now we have the opportunity to be here and be heard and inspire change and action,” he said. 

“Our peers and ourselves are being valued now and I think the investment will help.”

The second half of the money will be invested in social media messages produced by Indigenous youths and proposed for further action to tackle the issue.

Aunty Elizabeth Hayden hopes the Kimberley region can establish a template, which can be transferred to other regions to help reduce suicides across the state and potentially across the country. 

“No suicide of a child should happen, the death of a child should not happen. If we aren’t feeling some sense of compassion with this, then there is no sense of humanity in Australia,” she said.

“There needs to be a process of making Australia humane again." 

The recent suicides have made national headlines with the family of one of the girls speaking out earlier in the week. 

They told The Australian their daughter was a  “sweet, happy and funny” girl who excelled in maths and loved listening to music.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, call Lifeline ­(13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), or speak to a trusted elder or family member. 


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