CEO Blog: Indigenous suicide is not someone else’s problem

9 May 2016

PHOTO: The start of the painting that will travel to the World Indigenous conference in New Zealand and then to the SPA conference in Canberra. Delegates contributed to the image throughout the conference.

Last week I joined colleagues from all corners of this vast nation as we converged at the centre of Australia to share, to learn and to acknowledge the pain and suffering that suicide imposes on our communities. This was a special gathering, it was the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention National conference and we came together to find solutions. My warmest thanks to all of those involved in organising what was a powerful and action-oriented conference.

Standing beneath an azure blue sky in the shadow of the caterpillar, from the first opening comments by SPA Ambassador Tom Calma and right throughout the conference I was reminded of the importance of the connection to country and of the deep and enduring power of family and kinship.  

The Chairman of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress wisely called on us to centre efforts on prevention – particularly focusing on pre-birth through to age 5. Giving children shelter, love, support and language skill development; extremely good advice for children of all cultures.  

But perhaps for Aboriginal children, some of whom are the most disadvantaged in our community, this is especially important. Childhood trauma brought about by lack of access to the most basic of human needs food, safety and care impacts for decades resulting in already vulnerable people being made more vulnerable to suicide. 

Examples of successful community programs were presented as well as initiatives that have been co-designed by organisations and the elders from local communities. If you couldn't make it to this conference, you will have another chance to learn from a number of these speakers at the SPA conference

For me the message that was most powerful came from activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks:  

“If we are to make real inroads into the scourge that suicide reaps on Australia’s First People it is imperative that language, culture and ceremony be restored.” 

That will take great political, social and economic willpower to sustain such generational change. 

I’m up for it. Are you? 

Sue Murray, Chief Executive

#ATSISPEP #SuicidePrevention