• Indigenous leaders are saying it's time the government declares the rate of First Nations suicides as a national crisis. (NITV )Source: NITV
Leaders are calling on the federal government to declare Indigenous suicide a national crisis.
Brooke Fryer

NITV News, The Point
27 Mar 2019 - 9:42 AM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2019 - 10:09 AM

Content Warning: This article discusses suicide

A group of Indigenous leaders have called on the Australian government to take immediate action on Indigenous child and youth suicides, following the death of four Aboriginal people in Queensland earlier this month.

The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) on Monday urged the government to call Indigenous suicide a national crisis.

Leilani Darwin, First Nations suicide consultant and spokesperson for CBPATSISP, said that funding needs to be put into the hands of Aboriginal-driven organisations.

“What we’re saying with this call to action is give us an opportunity, fund this appropriately so we can actually be determined of our futures, so that we can provide the real-time response to what’s needed and so we can have leadership,”said Ms Darwin.

“We’re saying that [if] we have bipartisan support from government, then they need to actually step up to the page [and] declare the fact that this is a crisis, because if this was happening among non-Indigenous people at [similar] rates ... It would be on the front page of every newspaper.”

The call comes following the deaths of two young women aged 15 and 23 in Townsville, and two young men aged 19 and 20 in the northwest town of Mt Isa. All took their lives in the space of just 40 hours in separate incidences.

'Australian first' program trains Indigenous communities to take action on suicide
Of more than a hundred people who have done the training, all have used it at least once.

Gerry Georgatos from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service told NITV News that the toll of Aboriginal suicides is now at least 38 in just the first 12 weeks of the new year.

He said around two-thirds of those who took their lives were under the age of 26, with three being only 12-years-old.

Rod Little, Co-Chair of National Congress of Australia’s First People, told NITV News that Australia should be ashamed of these losses.

“It certainly is devastating news to hear that, and as a nation we should be totally embarrassed about allowing this to occur in the Australian society,” he said.

“To take little to no action that I have seen… for 35 lives lost this year alone – and we are only in the third month– is pretty horrendous.”

Mr Little believes there are several reasons to what could be leading to the spate of suicides, but until we have adequate funding into research, we won’t know for sure.   

“We can assume that poverty is one of those issues, discrimination, racism, low health status, unemployment, you can rattle off a whole range of things that make up an individual’s whole life, that they feel they are under so much pressure of pain that they have to self-harm, or take their own life,” he said.

Last month, an inquest into 13 youth suicides in the Kimberley region between November 2012 and March 2018 found that factors like sexual abuse and family violence were lead contributors. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been silent about the alarming rate of Aboriginal suicides as well as opposition leader Bill Shorten, who is also Labor's Indigenous Affairs Spokesperson.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander services available are available at NACCHO member servicesthe Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Headspace’s Yarn Safe.

For more, catch NITV's #ThePoint tonight at 8.30pm on Channel 34.

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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.