Every 20th Aboriginal death a suicide

Gija country

A Western Australian based suicide prevention researcher has described an unprecedented rise in suicide rates within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.


A new report classifies every 20th Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander death as suicide, an alarming increase from last year’s one in twenty four. Veteran human rights campaigner Gerry Georgatos is calling for further discussion and a cultural shift at the national level.


Mr Georgatos who has worked extensively in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, says that despite many beneficial suicide prevention services available, suicide rates will continue to rise because of existing social determinants and lack of government support.


He discussed the Australian indigenous suicide epidemic with CAAMA radio in Alice Springs, the first Aboriginal group to be allocated a broadcasting license in 1980. The interview runs for 8 minutes 37 seconds.


Elders in Warmun, a large Aboriginal community in the Kimberley, with prevalent poverty and limited employment opportunities, see the teaching of the local Gija language and culture as a powerful way to tackle the high rates of depression, substance abuse, violence, youth suicide and chronic disease prevalent there.


Warmun community is well known for its vibrant art movement and for a number of famous and important Aboriginal artists, including Rusty Peters, Phyllis Thomas, Mabel JuliPatrick Mung Mung, Betty CarringtonLena Nyadbi and many more, whose paintings hang in galleries all over the world. Many of these people teach in the language programme. 


“Many important people in the community who hold Gija cultural knowledge are elderly and there is an urgency for this knowledge to be passed on. There is currently very limited support for language programmes such as this in the region and we hope that the programme that is funded by this campaign will help to establish a more permanent funding source for similar programmes into the future.” The programme appeals for donations.


Its website has some impressive photographs of people and country of the area.

The rate of youth suicide in Indigenous Australia is now the highest in the world.  

Representatives of a “Culture Is Life campaign” travelled across the country, gathering vital messages from senior Elders about what is needed to solve the youth suicide crisis. They have published a downloadable “Elders Report on Preventing Indigenous Self Harm and Youth Suicide”.


There’s more news from the Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia) here.