AN Indigenous LGBTI advocate is one of the leading voices calling for a Royal Commission into Indigenous suicide.
Officially, 1 in 19 of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths are a suicide – which is one of the world’s highest suicide rates – however, it is believed the numbers are closer to 1 in 10 Indigenous people die by suicide, indication an urgent. humanitarian crisis
Black Rainbow founder and Dr Yunupingu Human Rights Recipient for Suicide Prevention Dameyon Bonson is leading the call for a Royal Commission.
“The ongoing systemic failure of outside service delivery into Indigenous health and wellbeing has had a devastating effect,” he said.
“Indigenous suicides are heading north and this needs to be need to be taken seriously. If Indigenous suicide is heading north, then it is obvious that what has been happening is not working.
“Change needs to happen. Folks need to down tools. And reset. Engage with Indigenous people as peers not constituents. The time for using Indigenous people as human experiments in non-Indigenous responses, including mobile applications is done.”
Bonson blamed structural racism as one of the biggest problems affecting the adequate resolution of the high rates of suicide in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
“In the Kimberley you only need to look at the workforce. Outside of the Aboriginal organisations that exist up here, there is a minimal scattering on Indigenous staff in mainstream NGO and governments, and maybe one or two in executive or leadership roles.
“On a national level responding to this racism I am ostracized and excluded. On social media I have been called racist by a Board Member of Suicide Prevention Australian, I have been labeled a bully in the same manner and disruptive. So much money goes toward non-government organisations that have ‘goodwill’, but when the rates, especially in the Kimberley are skyrocketing a bit humility is required.”
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Care Organisation (NACCHO) chair, Matthew Cooke said, “If these numbers applied to any group of non-Indigenous kids in Sydney or Melbourne, there would be pages of newspaper print and no amount of money, resources or political effort spared to address the issue.”
“It’s time there was a full Royal Commission into failings in the system that are driving so many people in our communities to such levels of despair that suicide is the only answer, and into what systemic changes we need to put in place to reverse such appalling statistics.”
Leading suicide prevention researcher Gerry Georgatos said he has “travelled to hundreds of communities and the people who are losing their loved ones are crying out to be heard, they are screaming. It is a myth and a dangerous perception that there is a silence, shame, taboo – it’s the listening that is not happening. This humanitarian crisis needs to translate to a national priority.”
“I’ve not met a single family that does not want their story told. If a royal commission is knocked back then we’re denying the support they need; we’re denying the outpouring they want. We’re denying their stories,” he said.
Georgatos said there are elevated risk groups to suicide with higher rates than the demographical rates and they include; individuals who as children were removed from their families, former inmates, Indigenous LGBQTI people, the homeless and houseless – and a sub group – ‘eviction’ – there are elevated suicidogenic risks with individuals and families evicted and individuals with ‘hidden’ serious abuses.
Fitzroy-based mother, Lena Andrews, lost her 18 year old daughter: “There was nobody there for us. We are living in neglect, in racism, forgotten by everyone. Please allow our stories to be told at a Royal Commission.”
The collective of voices calling for the Royal Commission into Indigenous Suicide planned to make their announcement last week but postponed it following the 4 Corners episode revealing incidences of torture against juvenile inmates at the Don Dale facility in the Northern Territory.
“The call for a Royal Commission into Indigenous Suicides must not be seen a competing interest to the Royal Commission into the Northern Territory’s youth detention centres,” Bonson said.
“The two cannot be conflated simply because they relate to Indigenous people. The outcomes of these Royal Commission are for the good of the nation.”