Indigenous suicide needs to be addressed

Recent reports have painted a stark picture of Indigenous suicide rates in Australia.

At a time each February when we commemorate the Apology to Indigenous Australians, the plight of our first peoples continues to cause alarm. On Sunday we marked the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who suffered trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal.

Despite the government’s apology and general popular recognition that Indigenous have suffered greatly since the first Europeans arrived, much still needs to be done to improve the living standards of Australia’s first peoples.

For example, a recent report from the Victorian Coroners Court found the Indigenous suicide rate in Victoria had jumped by more than half in the past year, with young people and those in regional areas most at risk.

Suicide rates amongst indigenous Australia-wide, however, have been increasing for decades and are cause for great concern.

Indigenous leaders have called for the findings to “drive change”.

Deaths by suicide of Indigenous people living in Victoria have been steadily increasing since 2018, with around two thirds of deaths among men and one third women. In 2021, there were 35 Indigenous deaths by suicide in Victoria, up on 20 in 2020. That represents a 75 per cent increase in one year.

Interestingly, while COVID-19 has caused stress among Indigenous communities, the report found it was not a major factor behind the increase in suicide deaths.

“Suicide is complex and has many layers,” said, Troy Williamson, manager of the Coroner’s Court Koori Engagement Unit. “It is vital that barriers to seeking support are dismantled and culturally competent practices are put in place to save lives.”

He described the increase in suicide deaths of Aboriginal Victorians as “heartbreaking”.

Other recurring themes among the reported deaths included engagement with police and the justice system close to their passing, relationship breakdowns and a lack of access to stable accommodation.

At Majellan Media we acknowledge Australia’s first peoples. And the Australian Redemptorists state on their website, ‘We recognise the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our culture and history. We acknowledge the violence and discrimination of Australia’s history and the need to address the disadvantage and discrimination indigenous Australians continue to face today.’

Additional information courtesy of the ABC News.