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Australia Young Aboriginal leaders in the Kimberley call for change to curb suicides

01:21  14 december  2019
01:21  14 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Indigenous suicide rates in Kimberley seven times higher than other Australians. Read more. Urquhart said there had been more than 700 recommendations and actions arising from 40 inquiries into Aboriginal youth suicide and related factors, such as family violence and child abuse, over the

The call comes in the wake of harrowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child suicide rates, and the WA coroner’s inquest into the deaths of 13 young The organisations called on the leaders to launch a "coordinated crisis response” and invest in Aboriginal -led strategies “before more young

a man standing next to a body of water: Empowered Youth Leader delegate Jacob Smith says the first priority is ensuring young people are heard.© Supplied: WA Primary Health Alliance Empowered Youth Leader delegate Jacob Smith says the first priority is ensuring young people are heard.

Aboriginal youth leaders in Western Australia's far north have made sweeping recommendations to curb the chronic rates of suicide among their peers.

The Empowered Young Leaders' report, released this week, calls for more education for young people around social and emotional wellbeing and increased efforts to embed Indigenous culture in schools.

They also want a permanent forum for young people to voice their concerns.

It comes as the State Government considers a formal response to the WA coroner's inquest into the suicides of 13 Indigenous young people in the remote region.

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The rate of suicide among Indigenous people in the Kimberley is three times the national Indigenous suicide rate and seven times the national Even specific programs intended to address Aboriginal youth suicide have been slow. The Kimberley Suicide Prevention Regional Trial will hold its first

Young Aborigines are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-indigenous Australians. Dr Pat Dudgeon, Australia’s leading aboriginal mental health practitioner, is from the Kimberley region herself and she is starting Australia’s first National Suicide Prevention Strategy that targets

'Too many lost'

In an impassioned statement, the delegates put policymakers on notice, saying they would no longer accept the "normalisation of suicide".

"We have lost too many loved ones to suicide," the statement read.

"Through our own lived experience, we bear witness to the heavy burden our families and communities endure in grappling with the never-ending cycle of grief and loss.

"We no longer choose to be disempowered by the issues that continue to impact on us as a result of intergenerational trauma. The lives of our children and grandchildren are in our hands."

Jacob Smith, 23, has been working in suicide prevention for two years.

As a member of the Empowered Young Leaders, he spent 12 months working intensely with 10 youth delegates across the Kimberley.

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The Kimberly people must be empowered to implement these recommendations. They must be front and centre and asked to do things, not just advise.” “Whether there's an existing body or whether you create a new one I don’t know; but ensure local leadership , in the Kimberley , guides what the

He said the recommendations were the starting point for creating generational change.

"There's endless possibilities, there's a lot more focus now on young people stepping up and getting involved," he said.

"Our hope is to amplify our voice and be at the forefront of these conversations with our leaders.

"If we can better consult with our youth they will be way more inclined to engage in these conversations and initiatives."

Efforts to meaningfully reduce the amount of Aboriginal youth taking their lives have largely failed, despite dozens of reports, inquests and millions of dollars in funding.

It remains the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

In the Kimberley, the rate of youth suicide is among the highest in the world.

In the aftermath of coroner Ros Fogliani's 2017 inquest into 13 suicides, young people had been given a bigger role in helping governments at both levels forge a solution.

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A comprehensive research report into the high rates of suicide in the Kimberley has called for a major change in the way prevention programs The Hear Our Voices Report found that Aboriginal communities had a clear desire to lead their own healing initiatives, based on the value of life, culture

A suicide prevention researcher, Gerry Georgatos, called for a royal commission into Indigenous suicide , saying it was the only way to get the national attention and political push needed to address the growing crisis. The time now is for putting into place long-term solutions to change the situation.”

Mr Smith said the top priority was to ensure youth were permanently involved in the design and delivery of policy.

He said this would be achieved by establishing local Aboriginal youth action committees in each town.

"We need to invest and build the skills of our young people … to build a real peer-to-peer network in the Kimberley," he said.

"There's a few of us young people working in this space but we don't feel like we have a strong network.

"There's no real structure around that at the moment."

Calls for better education and resources

Education was another key area in which the group wanted improvement.

They called for more social and emotional wellbeing training for young local people so they could support their peers with mental health difficulties.

There was also a push to better involve youth in developing targeted programs.

Delegates raised concerns about the lack of after-hours services and proposed to establish 24-hour safe houses and a youth-focused rehabilitation centre.

"Delegates expressed frustration at the lack of local training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people in the youth services sector," the report stated.

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They also identified the poor "cultural and community connection" between mainstream services and local Aboriginal families.

Government to respond to coroner's inquest

The report is being considered by the WA Government.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt said the recommendations were valued and would be treated with respect.

"The report will have an important role to play in the Government's understanding of the perspective of young Aboriginal people in the region," he said.

Mr Wyatt also outlined the McGowan Labor Government's efforts to improve education and skills training.

"In 2019, there were 60 WA public schools teaching one or more of 21 Aboriginal languages to 5,611 students," the Minister said.

"WA public schools are increasingly teaching children local Aboriginal languages, benefiting students and helping to keep the languages alive in our communities.

"The Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework supports all Department of Education staff to reflect on their approaches to the education of Aboriginal students."

Mr Wyatt pointed to a "range of regional partnerships" that ensured Aboriginal people received adequate skills training.

"A great success story is one of North Regional TAFE's alumni, Soleil White, who was named the WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year at the 2018 WA Training Awards."

The State Government is expected to hand down its formal response to the coroner's inquest in the coming weeks.

TELEPHONE COUNSELLING

IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE, CALL:

Lifeline on 13 11 14 Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

QLife on 1800 184 527

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