Only two written submissions have been received for the Education and Health Standing Committee’s Inquiry Into Aboriginal Youth Suicides, which largely reflects community attitudes towards the issue. One comprehensive report has been attached to the Inquiry from a group in the Kimberley whom advocate for the adoption of contemporary strategy, but the presence and input of Aboriginal voices remain absent.
Despite a substantial wealth of information regarding Aboriginal Australia and its implications for research and policy, suicide rates remain high among remote Aboriginal Australians. This issue is frequently discussed in media and university classrooms everywhere, along with a number of passionate groups and agencies struggling everyday to achieve something analogous to equality in this country.
However, despite uniform outcry against these datasets whenever they are revealed, and despite the genuine best wishes of a majority of Australians – the fact that a state inquiry into Aboriginal youth suicide has received only two submissions is a stark reminder of the disproportionate amount of funding and media representation given to what is ultimately a mental health crisis afflicting at risk Australians.
Let me be clear – I’m fully aware that many Inquiries go without any overwhelming degree of public interest, but one needs to take into account the longevity and persistence of young Aboriginal suicides, and their ongoing relevancy despite multiple instances of political and televised attention.
This same quiet lull of activity – not complete silence, but by no means an uproar – which permeates the issue of remote suicides among Aboriginal Australians is the same quiet lull responsible for the attitudes that let this continue to happen, among all Australians. And I do not mean to create a guilty reader – ultimately, we are left with little avenues beyond personal advocacy and shows of support. But societal change needs mass numbers to occur, and the mass numbers are not present in Western Australia when it comes to young Aboriginal suicide.
Another current inquiry into RSPCA has received over one hundred and twenty written submissions in comparison.