Indigenous girls’ suicide spree spreads
The tragic toll of indigenous child suicide around Australia has risen further, with confirmation that a 12-year-old girl living near Adelaide took her own life last Friday.
It means that five indigenous girls between 12 and 15 have suicided in a period of only nine days, including three cases in Western Australia and one in Queensland. In the most recent case, South Australian Police confirmed that there were “no suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death of the 12-year-old Adelaide girl on January 11.
The Australian has been told a 12-year-old indigenous boy is also on life support in a Brisbane hospital after what is believed to have been a suicide attempt.
The boy was flown from Roma to Brisbane yesterday.
The spate of deaths has led to a prediction that the current overrepresentation of Aboriginal people under 17 taking their lives could rise even further this year, from 30 per cent of youth suicides between 2012 and 2016 to as much as one in every two youth suicides.
Researcher Gerry Georgatos, head of the federal government’s indigenous critical response team, said poverty and lack of education were major factors in suicidal ideation among young indigenous Australians.
But he said sexual predation had also been identified as a factor in one-third of all indigenous children who suicided. He said it was notable that the five most recent deaths were of young girls.
The Australian reported that in Perth’s south, a 15-year-old indigenous girl is believed to have taken her own life last Thursday. Her death came after a 15-year-old girl from WA died in Townsville Hospital on January 3, two days after being admitted as a result of self-harming. She had been visiting family in Queensland.
On January 4, a 12-year-old indigenous girl in the WA iron ore town of South Hedland died by suicide. And on January 6, a 14year-old girl in the Kimberley Aboriginal community of Warmun took her own life.
Indigenous lawyer Hannah McGlade said her own experience of sexual abuse at 15 had been “lifeshattering”. She said people associated with her perpetrator had been hostile when she spoke publicly about it. “Victims are victimised. Sadly, it’s still a taboo subject.”
Dr McGlade, who has advised the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva on indigenous rights, said there was a clear link between child sexual assault and family violence and disturbing levels of Aboriginal women and girls who attempted suicide.
“Last year, the UN highlighted the level of violence against indigenous women and girls in Australia, and called for a specific national action plan,” she said.
“The people funded to provide suicide prevention plans are not properly addressing the level of sexual violence suffered by our women and girls.”
Responding to the fact that four of the five girls who suicided were from WA, the McGowan government said suicide prevention co-ordinators were installed in every region, in addition to specialist Aboriginal mental health services and programs.
Many of the new services were a response to an excoriating 2007 coroner’s inquiry into 22 suicides across the Kimberley, which found lack of leadership in service delivery by both state and federal governments had led to disastrous living conditions and high suicide rates linked to alcohol or cannabis.
Lifeline 13 11 14