Feb 14, 2012

Stolen Lives: why are indigenous Australians killing themselves?

Suicide among Aboriginal communities is now three to four times the rate of non-Aboriginal suicide and Aboriginal people commit suicide at a far younger age. Why, asks Kate Horowitz?

Aboriginal suicide first emerged in Australian records in 1960s. In the 1980s, there was a surge of Aboriginal suicide starting with adults, then young adults and now, 30 years later, children.


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27 thoughts on “Stolen Lives: why are indigenous Australians killing themselves?

  1. mikeb

    If you have nothing to live for then suicide is seen as a more attactive option. Too many Aboriginal people have no reason to get out of bed, have no jobs, have not had a wage earner in their family – ever, and are bored bored bored. You see a similar syndrome in poor white suburban neighbourhoods where the suicide rate is also higher than average. Welfare by itself does not make the recipient fell better about themselves, and probably makes the situation worse.

  2. persona generic

    You whities trot around the globe in the name of civilisation and conquest; your racist attitude has never changed. You export war and violence in the name of civilisation and progress. Your organisations and TNCs occupy the most valuable sections of the value chain all over the world and when a people or a nation rise in independence you crush them mercilessly and brand them as terrorists. And you wonder why…

    And now, Indigenous peoples, the rightful custodians of these lands are “given” rights by you! Given rights within a paradigm of your imagination and your values, co-opted into a sense of nation and people that is anathema to sentient and rational human beings! And you wonder why…

    White man you remain janus-faced and jackbooted barbiarians: looking anxiously to the past and commiting evermore grevious crimes against other human beings in the name of fear. You cast the genocidal shadows of the past as of the past and there to remain but you indigantly clutch to your sense of entitlement: privileges and advantages forged in its spectre… And you bear the torch aloft and carry it forth.

    And you wonder why!

    You sell the lie: freedom, civilisation and peace but all you know is subjection and subordination. For you there can only ever be One. In your Image.

    picayune little white man.

  3. paddy

    Even though the subject matter is deeply depressing, this is an impressive piece of work Kate. Well done.

  4. mikeb

    @persona generic
    “picayune” – nice word. Must try to worm that into future general conversation.

  5. Clytie

    I remember speaking to a junior primary class about culture. My daughter had started school there. She was half-Vietnamese, and experiencing some unpleasant behaviour from others. So I had a session with her class.

    We spoke about culture and family. At that stage (16 years ago), there were at least 63 different ethnic groups representing 50% of the population of the Riverland, so the class had a good variety of cultural backgrounds: Anglo, Celt, Greek, Italian, Turkish, Sikh etc.

    Each kid talked about his or her family background and culture. Their parents had taught them about their culture, and they were keen to learn more, and to learn about others. Even my daughter spoke up a little.

    However, there was one little boy, who had sat all the time, slumped and with his head down. I worked around to him, then asked his name, and said, “You’re Ngarrindjeri, aren’t you?”

    The slumped little figure tensed suddenly, then mumbled “Yes”.

    I told the class about our Ngarrindjeri people, guardians of the River, protectors of this land for thousands of years. The other kids asked questions, intrigued. If the little boy had had antennae, they would have been straight up and quivering.

    In the end, I looked at him and said with emphasis and conviction, for all to hear, “You must be very proud.”

    He lifted his head for the first time, looking out the window. There was a pause. “Yes…” he said tentatively. Then he seemed to come to a decision, and looked straight at me. “Yes,” he said firmly, “I am.”

  6. Whistleblower

    @persona generic
    You appear to be a very confused individual. Apart from being appallingly racist, you are attributing generic characteristics to so-called “whities” which have been a characteristic of history for thousands of years across all racial groupings, including so-called “darkies” especially in Africa where it is one group of African suppressing another in the post-colonial era. Theconcept of a “rightful custodian” is nonsense. Before European colonisation of the Australian continent, the environment was exploited for tens of thousands of years, with systemic change in flora and fauna as a consequence of human habitation. When this culture was confronted with a stronger and more dynamic alternative it collapsed in the face of better social and economic organisation. That is the harsh reality of colonisation which has happened around the world for thousands of years, and the so-called “whities are the descendants of those who made a successful defence of their own rights against opponents.

    In case you hadn’t noticed your expressing yourself in English even though the statement “”within a paradigm of your imagination and your values, co-opted into a sense of nation and people that is anathema to sentient and rational human beings” is a string of words which makes very little sense and is indicative of a reasonable education at least in terms of vocabulary if not logic. If you want a real example of “janus-faced and jackbooted barbiarians: looking anxiously to the past and commiting evermore grevious crimes against other human beings””I would suggest that the activities of the Germans under Adolf Hitler, the Russians under Stalin and Lenin, the Japanese under Tojo, China under Mao Zedong, the killing fields of Cambodia and the appalling regimes in North Korea should be attracting much more of your attention. Had the so-called “whities” on the receiving end of your scorn and derision applied any of the techniques of these regimes there would be no so-called indigenous Australians left to speak of.

    You would do much better to consider that social dysfunction and lack of economic opportunity would be highly correlated with suicide, and the answer is almost certainly full integration of the indigenous population into the mainstream Australian community in terms of education, training and employment. This integration into the Australian economy is impossible if indigenous children are carrying the burden of two cultures, one of which has social values incompatible with mainstream Australian economic survival.

    Economic survival is not possible if you are not living in an area where work is available. Similarly indigenous children should be being educated in mainstream schools, and if people choose to a high value on their cultural identity and disintegration, then social welfare dependency, low self-esteem, and high suicide rates will be inevitable. This has nothing to do with ethnicity, and everything to do with cultural values.

  7. gerard

    If we keep looking at the past and blame colonialism, it will not change. When I see old footage of indigenous kids, dressed in school uniforms, saluting the flag and marching into school to learn reading and writing, one can’t just keep on saying that all efforts in the past were so dreadful.
    Take a look how the aboriginals ( samis) in Scandinavian countries have fared.
    The conditions are not all that dissimilar, huge distances and isolation and a severe climate. The kids all go to school and alcoholism is now almost non existent. Their indigenous languages have been preserved and depending on which country, all documentation is bi-lingual.
    Children that live too isolated from school would be living at school during the week and be home at week-ends. The thing that was first undertaken was ‘educating’ the children.
    Here many indigenous children still miss out on going to school. Why on earth is that still happening? What is that fear that prevent stepping in and have children going to school. I would dearly like to know.

  8. persona generic

    Many children were forcefully removed and sent to what you call “schools”. The Australian government actively promoted a policy of indigenocide: the product of deep-rooted racism that remains to this day and these institutions were a cornerstone of this genocidal policy. Indigenous Australians were thought to be elementally tainted and had to be purged.

    White man you will only ever understand one kind of sovereignty: your own. And it is on this basis that you look to the past; subjugating and subordinating policies suborn not by imperialism and avarice but rather benign humanity. You say the times should be understood in their own terms and at once you undermine the pursuit of justice and justify the atrocities that continue to be committed in your name.

  9. gerard

    Well, if children were forcefully removed and sent to schools it wasn’t so different when I went to school in Holland. It was unlawful not to go to school and I would also have been removed if my parents did not send me to school..
    What do you want? If education of children is not tackled, than all is lost.

  10. Dagney_Taggert

    @Persona Generic

    The rate of child abuse among aboriginal children has more than doubled over the last 10 years, and is now almost 10 times higher than that amongst non-Aboriginal children.

    Maybe taking children out of abusive home situations was not a bad thing?

    You rant and you rail against “whitie” and the whole honkie-colonialist complex, yet you can’t tell us what the solution should be. What should we do? How can we make it all better for you? We can’t. You have to. You have to clean your own house. You have to say “enough! No longer will we abuse ourselves our wives and our children”. Until you do that, nothing will change.

    Was the intervention a bad thing? Yes it was – it was terrible that the Government had to say “since you cannot look after yourselves, we will do it for you”. I would be appalled if the Government did that to me. I would change, to get them out. Until you do that, what is your future?

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