On Monday, a 37-year-old mother of three in the West Australian town of Kalgoorlie took her own life. She drove to the “sorry site” of the community, where fourteen-year-old Elijah Doughty was run down by a car and killed earlier this year, and left everything behind. Her children. Her people. Her life.
Today, we hear there’s an “epidemic” of suicides in Aboriginal and Torres Straight communities.
That, in 2015, suicide was the fifth leading cause of death for aboriginal people, compared to the 12th leading cause of death for non-aboriginal people.
That one in three child suicides in Australia involves an Aboriginal child.
These numbers seem impossible.
Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders account for only three per cent of the entire Australian population.
How can three per cent of the population also account for one in three child suicides?
This post could be all about emotion. I could tell you about the town of Leonora, also in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields, where four young people took their lives in the first four months of this year. I could tell you about the feelings of the community. That “there is a sense of despair, a sense of hopelessness,” or that there “aren’t many Aboriginal families who aren’t touched by suicide“.
This post could be argumentative. I could tell you things you already know. That education, alcohol abuse, smoking, employment, crime and cultural identity are challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations. But these are small, easy phrases that drift out of the radio and through the car window. That slide off our screens. And move past our consciousness.