Indige­nous girls’ sui­cide spree spreads

The Australian - - THE NATION - VIC­TO­RIA LAU­RIE

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

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