Indigenous youth suicide goes from very bad to much worse – Quadrant Online

In 2014, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO) reported that teenage suicide in Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley district of Western Australia’s far north had become a social disaster. He said teenage suicide in local Indigenous communities had gone “from an extremely rare phenomenon to one whose rate…is now the highest in the world”.[1]

It was four times higher among young Aboriginal men than among young non-Aboriginal men in Australia, and five times higher among Aboriginal women. In some remote Kimberley communities, the suicide rate had reached 100 times the national average.

In the eyes of the Western Australian state authorities, NACCHO was not reporting anything new. The causes of the tragedy were previously investigated and publicized in a 2008 report by Western Australian state coroner Alistair Hope. However, Aboriginal politics of the type that now wants the Albanian government to implement its ideas in the Australian Constitution then got in the way. A second report on the same subject in 2019 by Hope’s successor as state coroner, Rosalinda Fogliani, revealed how this problem went from very bad to much worse.

Fogliani investigated the suicides of thirteen Aboriginal children and young men in the Kimberley district between 2012 and 2016. His report is depressing not only because of the grim portrait it paints of the five boys’ brief lives (from twelve to ten -seven years), three girls (from ten to thirteen years old) and five young men (from eighteen to twenty-four years old) of which it treats in detail. The report also makes clear how the current ideological agenda of the Indigenous political class now dominates public policy and how effectively that agenda has now buried the more realistic approach that preceded it.

Rather than finding plausible solutions, the Fogliani report ensures that the same pattern of political and social engineering that produced the current tragedy will continue for the foreseeable future. But first let me discuss the previous approach.

In 2008, the then Western Australian Coroner, Alastair Hope, conducted an inquest into the suicides that year of two young girls and three young boys, including four children as young as fifteen, in the remote Kimberley community of Oombulguri, a former Anglican Church mission on the River Forrest, population 200. Hope identified three social problems he held largely responsible: chronic alcoholism, gross parental neglect and the unfettered sexual abuse of children. All were common in the local community at the time and all contributed to the results. Oombulgurri produced nothing he could sell to the outside world, but had enough social money to build and maintain an airstrip used primarily for flying Cessnas from Wyndham fully stocked with beer and spirits.

At the time of Hope’s survey, most remote communities in the state were similar. They were small, self-contained, closed outposts with no permanent police or medical personnel. Accordingly, they were laws in themselves. In Oombulguri, after an eighteen-month police investigation in which detectives eventually won the trust of several girl victims, ten male residents were charged with child sex offences. The attackers were not only young men, but some community elders.

Police ultimately brought 109 charges, including twenty-one counts of abuse of girls as young as twelve by community manager Darryl Morgan and four counts of sexual abuse of children by his wife, Veronica Bulsey, who nursed the girls for her husband. . Morgan was sentenced to ten years in prison and Bulsey to four years and nine months.

At the same time, police arrested more than twenty men, including elders, in two other communities in Kimberley, Kalumburu and Halls Creek, for sexual abuse of young children, including prostitution of underage girls. Some of the men arrested at Halls Creek came from the Aboriginal communities of Balgo and Warmun and from the Kimberley Regional Center in Kununurra.

Following his coroner’s inquest, Hope expressed despair at the dysfunction he found and recommended the state government “assess the sustainability” of indigenous communities in the Kimberley, including Oombulgurri. He said in his conclusions:

It is not acceptable for public funding to support a closed community for the benefit of a limited number of families, some of whom are involved in pedophilia and alcohol abuse.

Liberal state Premier Colin Barnett responded by not only investigating their sustainability, but closing Oombulgurri in 2011. Three years later, he announced he would do the same for 150 more of the 274 remote communities. of the state and would provide housing for their inhabitants of major regional towns such as Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Kununurra, where there were permanently manned police stations and hospitals.

Barnett’s decision had been taken following the intervention of the Howard government in 2007, when Commonwealth Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough decided that the dysfunction of the remote community under his jurisdiction in the Northern Territory had reached a stage where the local police were unable to cope. He decided to send the army to restore order in several places in the territory.

Although Brough was cheered by mothers and children in remote communities, the indigenous political class in our southern cities bitterly opposed the whole process. Denouncing the Intervention as racist and oppressive, they began a long campaign to discredit it. By the time Barnett was following Brough’s lead in Western Australia, the good deeds of the intervention had almost been publicly forgotten and Brough had lost his seat in Parliament. In 2015, political objections in Western Australia, public protests in Melbourne and a policy shift in Canberra persuaded Barnett to water down his proposals. In the end, only Oombulguri and a handful of very small communities were closed.

Today, no one in authority in this area dares even consider closing these communities, let alone recommending it to the government. In his report, Fogliani does not focus on the issues that weighed so heavily on his predecessor’s mind: alcoholism, parental neglect and child sexual abuse. In fact, she downplays the last one.

She acknowledges that two of the boys who killed themselves had been victims of sexual abuse, but said she had not received any evidence that sexual abuse was a factor in the other eleven cases. This is despite the fact that in two others the victims had grown up in Oombulguri and only left there in 2011 when it was closed. One was a girl, aged twelve, who committed suicide at Wyndham; the other a twenty-one-year-old man who hanged himself in Halls Creek and whose older brother had committed suicide when they lived in Oombulgurri. The likelihood that these two young people were victims of the pederast regime of Oombulgurri is difficult to dismiss.

Instead of the causes identified by his predecessor, Fogliani has reverted to the current political orthodoxy expressed in the current Labor government’s submissions to Mark McGowan and Labor Senator Pat Dodson, who both assure him that the causes lie in “colonization “. They claim that indigenous peoples still suffer from “historical experiences such as the loss of lands and languages, as well as the forced removal and relocation of children from their family and cultural background”.

This leads Fogliani to conclude that “cultural healing programs” are the solution.

She supports the current demand by politicians and activists for the restoration of traditional Aboriginal culture and for the adoption of the principles of “self-determination and empowerment”. She recommends that services “need to be co-designed in a completely different way, which recognizes at a fundamental level, the need for a more collective and inclusive approach to cultural healing for Indigenous communities.”

She was impressed by the claims of the now fashionable left-leaning Canadian academic psychologist Michael Chandler, who asserts:

Individualistic approaches to suicide prevention are misguided, and Indigenous suicide must instead be “treated collectively with ‘cultural medicines’ prescribed and applied by entire cultural communities”. This community-based approach is necessary because the harm inflicted on Indigenous groups of “peoples is collective, rather than personal, and multiplicative, rather than simply additive.”

Chandler has defined a set of what he calls “protective markers” for Indigenous communities that, when present, will allegedly give a community a low youth suicide rate. They include: Aboriginal self-government; traditional land title; local control of health, education, police and child protection services; cultural preservation facilities; and elected councils composed of at least 50% women.

Yet in Australia, the remote communities with the highest rates of youth suicide and most other forms of social dysfunction are often those that may meet the above criteria. Many small, gated communities in the Kimberley could easily fill out a form by ticking all of Chandler’s boxes. In fact, in Oombulguri, before the telltale wave of suicides in 2008, that is exactly what happened. According to Debbie Guest of The Australian, which revealed the extensive police detective work that ultimately blew up community coverage, when government officials or media visited, Oombulguri men ensured the streets were quickly cleared beforehand. The place was then presented as an ideal example of how autonomous indigenous communities could function.

In all reliable measures of violent death in Australia, there is a marked difference between the rate recorded in remote communities, where 21% of Aboriginal people live, and that of urban and regional centres, where 79% of people live. The latter have lives not fundamentally different from the rest of Australia; the former are a national disgrace on all levels of health and well-being.

Remote communities are not representative of some ancient cultures as they are now being promoted. They are the products of a social experiment known as the “Homelands” movement, conceived mainly by white bureaucrats and left-wing political activists in the 1970s who thought it would be progressive to transform old missions and centers government welfare in autonomous communities. . The monumental failure of their experiment did not lead those who built their political ambitions and careers there to rethink their position. Instead, they are now advocating even more of the same.

If Anthony Albanese follows through on his promise to hold a constitutional referendum to give Aboriginal people a voice in Australian government, the ideological agenda of so-called cultural healing will become even more deeply entrenched. Meanwhile, Aboriginal children in faraway Australia will continue to commit suicide, and their elders and white supporters will blame everyone but themselves.

[1] reported by NACCHO Indigenous Health Newsletters‘Where Suicide Rurks in Aboriginal Kids’ Minds as an Easy Way Out’,

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