Aboriginal children as young as 8, 9, 10 and 11 years of age are killing themselves in Australia

Gerry Georgatos

Aboriginal children as young as 8, 9, 10 and 11 years of age are killing themselves in Australia. With the crisis at staggering levels, new statistics show that suicide rates in the state of Western Australia are some of the worst in the world. Now an inquiry in the parliament of Western Australia, the most racist state, has called for a royal commission into Indigenous suicide. A royal commission is the highest form of inquiry in Australia.


But don’t hold your breath. Australia has an appalling record of its treatment of its indigenous people, regardless of who governed.


Greek-heritage suicide researcher and pro-Aboriginal activist, Gerry Georgatos, is heading a petition for a royal commission to the leaders of the two main political parties, conservative prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor opposition leader, Bill Shorten. You can sign it here. It’s backed by a number of the most prominent indigenous activists.


Kimberley mother Lena Andrews lost her daughter, Phillinka, 18 years young, in 2014 and asked for her to be remembered in the petition. “There was nobody there for us,” she writes. "We are living in neglect, in racism, forgotten by everyone. Please allow our stories to be told at a royal commission.”


“If we don't have a royal commission into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides, we are going have more suicides, the trends are going to keep on going up, we are going to keep on losing more lives. We're already losing more than five per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nationally to suicide. That's abominable, that's a humanitarian, a catastrophic humanitarian crisis," Georgatos said in a nationally broadcast radio programme.


In the scenically ruggedly spectacular Kimberleys of northwest Western Australia, hugely popular with Australian and foreign tourists, suicide rates are seven times the Australian average. While over the past ten years the national rate was about 12 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 people, in the Kimberley region 74 people per 100,000 killed themselves.


Australians vote for a national government this Saturday, 2 July, with the two major parties neck and neck in polls on around 50% each.


But although voting is compulsory and non-voters can be fined, only 58% of the indigenous Australians are registered to vote. I daresay no one will fine them because if they did vote it wouldn’t be for the parties that traditionally govern, with very little to choose between them.


The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the umbrella organisation of the trade union movement, which is close to the Labor Party has stated in an election blurb, “Much more must be done to help Indigenous Australians”.


"We've heard a lot in this federal election campaign about interns and apprentices, and about retirement savings and the increasing cost of living. While these are all issues that should be front of mind during an election campaign, the element that is often lost when we discuss them is the disproportionate impact these issues can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While unemployment is a national issue, and youth unemployment even more so, the numbers quoted rarely include those for remote Indigenous communities, which regularly reach 30%.”


“Labor is committed to the efforts to close the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and believes that central to this is the need to implement the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the period of the Gillard Government.


“No group of Australians will be hit harder by the government’s cuts to Medicare than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. No group of Australians will be hit harder by the government’s attempts to drive down bulk billing and push up health costs. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations would find it impossible to absorb the costs of these actions and their patient services would be compromised.”


From here in Hamburg I can hear my Aboriginal friends laughing derisively and cynically at these Labor electoral puffs to do it all better. They just don’t trust any politicians, regardless of their stripe.






More news from the Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (WGAR News) here.