Society

Australia's string of indigenous youth suicides has been linked to 'crushing' poverty

Almost all Aboriginal suicides are of people living below the poverty line.

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Eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have taken their lives in the first six weeks of 2019 in independent cases across Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

The suicides come as Western Australia received the coroner’s findingsThursday from one of the state's biggest inquests into Indigenous youth suicides in the Kimberley region from 2012 to 2016. The results cited inter-generational trauma and “crushing poverty” as significant contributors to the deaths.

"Poverty in the Kimberley is the major driver of suicidal ideation, of distorted thinking, of unhappiness, of watching the world pass one by right from the beginning of life,” Gerry Georgatos, national coordinator of the National Indigenous Critical Response Service, told NITV News. “One-eighth of First Nations people living in the Kimberley live in some form of homelessness, and 60% live below the poverty line.”

The findings further revealed those who had died by suicide often witnessed alcohol abuse and domestic violence. The majority of children also had little access to mental health services.

Indigenous Australians represent just 2.8% of Australia's population. Despite this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between the ages of five and 17 die by suicide at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

Coroner Ros Fogliani blamed the overall Aboriginal suicide rate, which has doubled in five years, on failing government-funded services.

"The considerable services already being provided to the region are not enough," she told SBS. "It may be time to consider whether the services themselves need to be co-designed in a completely different way."

Western Australia Health Minister Roger Cook announced the government would take into consideration the coroner’s 42 inquest recommendations, which include restrictions on takeaway alcohol, broad education campaigns, and the development of cultural healing projects.

"We are determined as a government to understand and respond to these tragic circumstances," Cook told reporters.

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