The rate of Indigenous Victorians who have died by suicide in the past decade is double that of the state’s non-Indigenous population, according to the Australian Associated Press.
A new report by the Coroners Court of Victoria shows 117 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Victorians took their own lives between January 2009 to April 2020, among 7,067 Victorians to die by suicide during the decade.
The state's Indigenous population is 0.8%.
The court revealed 60% of Indigenous deaths were in regional areas, while 66% of non-Indigenous deaths occurred in cities.
There were also twice as many male-Indingeous suicides as female-Indigneous suicides.
The report noted two-thirds of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander individuals experienced abuse before their death, a fourth were victims of bullying and 82% experienced substance use or misuse — all significantly higher figures than for non-Indigenous people.
"It’s extremely troubling that the rate of suicides in the Indigenous population is twice that of the non-Indigenous population," State Coroner John Cain told the Age. "Every one of those deaths has a family sitting behind it."
The Coroner found that mob had higher rates of contact with the criminal legal system prior to committing suicide— Change the Record (@Change_Record) June 30, 2020
We must keep our young people out of the criminal legal system. That means #RaiseTheAge of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years old https://t.co/PCQOvoxGqK
Key Indigenous health and community organisations have used the report’s data to call for further government intervention.
Jill Gallagher, the chief executive of Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, has demanded an independent inquiry into Aboriginal suicide in the state and for the government to immediately commence talks with the Indigenous health sector to discuss solutions.
"Improving clinical services and responses remains critical, but our responses must go much deeper,” Gallagher told SBS. “We know that Aboriginal youth suicide especially is not solely a mental health issue — it is an outcome of complex, interrelated factors that are rooted in intergenerational trauma.”
Gallagher added: "We need urgent answers. Solutions focused on family healing, prevention and postvention support."
The suicide disparities among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is not a uniquely Victorian issue.
Similar reports regarding Aboriginal suicide in children in the Kimberley and figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reflect widespread inequality across the country.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association claim the prevalence of mental illness among Victoria’s Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous peoples around the country, is linked to loss of culture, identity and land as well as poverty and racism.
"The prevalence of mental health within Victorian Aboriginal communities can be directly related to the loss of land, culture, identity, self-respect, self-worth and the breakdown of traditional roles within communities,” the association wrote in a submission to the royal commission on mental health in Victoria in 2019. “Systemic racism has been a significant factor in ensuring Aboriginal communities remain fragmented and disjointed and has supported the social isolation, trauma and depression of many Aboriginal communities’ members.”
The report will be provided to the ongoing royal commission in the hope of informing statewide policies and models of care.
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text Lineline Australia at 0477 13 11 14 or call at 13 11 14. You can find international resources here.