Landmark Indigenous suicide report paves way for LGBTI recognition

Landmark Indigenous suicide report paves way for LGBTI recognition
Image: Dameyon Bonson Photo: Twitter via @chrispytweets

A FEDERAL report which has revealed the shocking rate of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations has also been hailed as revolutionary for LGBTI people by Indigenous advocates.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) was released today as a way to address the suicide crisis in Indigenous communities as Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley, Indigenous affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Ken Wyatt plan to attend a roundtable with Indigenous leaders and community organisations to address the issue.

The ATSISPEP report revealed Indigenous children and young people are particularly vulnerable, comprising 30 per cent of the suicide deaths among those under 18 years of age. Indigenous 15-24 year olds are over five times as likely to suicide as their non-Indigenous peers.

While statistics for the rate of suicide of LGBTI Indigenous people do not exist, anecdotal evidence suggests it is alarmingly high considering both groups have higher rates of suicide than the general population, so the intersectionality of identities make them vulnerable to suicide.

However, for the first time in any Indigenous suicide prevention response, the LGBTI community has been acknowledged as needing specialised attention on the issue and need to be included in all Suicide Prevention Plans.

Based on advice from the Sexuality and Gender Diverse Populations Roundtable held in March last year, one of the general recommendations in today’s ATSISPEP report was that “Indigenous people identifying as LGBTQI should be represented on all Australian Government and other Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention advisory fora”.

“At this, placing Indigenous LGBTQI at the centre of responses was highlighted as a critical principle to guide future suicide prevention activity among this population sub-group at higher risk of suicide,” the report said.

For long time Indigenous LGBTI activist, Dameyon Bonson, the acknowledgement of this section of community in the ATSISPEP is a massive victory.

“I feel absolutely elated, I was on the national advisory committee for this project and credit has to be paid to Professor Tom Calma and Professor Pat Dudgeon for having the foresight to listen and hear these are the issues that are emerging,” he told Star Observer.

“Considering this is something that needs to happen, I couldn’t be more pleased.

“It says to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ community that the Aboriginal suicide prevention sector and health sector at large gives a shit and wants to try and right some wrongs.

“It’s time to get the work done.”

Bonson said the ATSISPEP was going to be a game changer for mainstream health and suicide prevention organisations because for the first time the project serves as a template and “go to document” for culturally appropriate service provision.

Speaking from Kaleidescope’s 2016 LGBTI Pacific Youth Forum, Bonson said the timing of the release of the report was great as he had just finished meeting with US Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons and it shows what advocacy can achieve.

“Hopefully it will be encouraging to the delegates from the Asia-Pacific region that advocacy can work,” he said.

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