No Wonder the Suicide Rate is High Amongst Aborigines
I am quickly learning that this trip is about embracing lots of wonderful and unexpected experiences, being receptive to new ideas, different ways of working and sharing what I learn along the way. Equally, it is also about reflecting on my own perception of the world and learning how other countries, people and cultures might differ. I consider myself open and receptive to all of these tasks. Due to the nature of my work very little shocks me. That is, until yesterday.
I was informed that Aborigines were not considered to be human beings until 1967. In fact, they were listed as wild life under the Flora and Fauna Act. This meant the Australian Government would list Aborigines alongside wild life and plants etc. I feel ashamed that I did not know that, but I am guessing the majority of you reading this did not know either! In March I travel to Brisbane to work shadow a mental health professional who works closely with the Aborigines, especially in relation to suicide and suicide bereavement. I can promise you one thing now. By the time I leave Australia I will not be ignorant about the plight of the Aborigines.
Facts about Aborigines
- From the late 1800’s to the 1970s, the Australian government forcibly separated Aboriginal children from their natural families and placed them with white families believing that they would be brought up in a more loving family and would become more civilised;
- Nearly every Aboriginal family was affected by the government’s policy to enforce the movement of their children;
- A review of deaths in custody revealed that three quarters of those that died by suicide, had been forcibly separated from their natural parents as children;
- Aborigines are over-represented in prisons;
- Reducing suicide and suicidal behaviour among Aborigines is a public health priority for the Australian government;
- Aborigines have the world’s highest suicide rate amongst young children; and
- The Kimberely region has the highest rate of suicide amongst young people recording 1 death in 1,200 (80 per 100,000).
Sometimes it is important to reflect and consider how we might feel if we were exposed to the same difficulties, almost metaphorically walking in their shoes. Not sure many of us would cope. To think these poor people were not even considered to be human beings until 1976 and then still had to cope with the trauma of their children being forcibly taken and given to white Australian families. It is no wonder the suicide rate is high in Aborigines.