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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Aboriginal youth suicide highest in the world

The suicide of young indigenous people is now claimed to be the highest in the developed world.  Thirty one Aboriginal elders were interviewed over two years and thousands of hours were spent on a report to find out why their young people were killing themselves. 

That report has just been released and it's very depressing.  They found that implemented government programs, despite good intentions, haven't worked, and that many teens are now in the grip of drug and alcohol addiction.  They believe they suffer from a lost cultural identity and cross-cultural confusion which produces a sense of hopelessness that sometimes leads to suicide.

Problems persist with alcohol, even in dry areas.

The Wangkatjungka people who live in a remote area not far from Fitzroy Crossing were the first to ask the WA government to make their community an alcohol free zone and in April 2008, the only way to get a drink in town is to go to the bar at the pub or have a meal in the restaurant.

Marmingee Hand

Local school teacher Marmingee Hand was one of the local women who lobbied for the ban.  "The restrictions led to a significant drop in Aboriginal people sitting under trees drinking and wandering around intoxicated seven days a week" she said.

But things have changed.  There is now a flourishing black market grog trade in town that can be bought from parked cars and illegal home bottle shops.

"It's having a devastating effect on our community and is also having a huge impact on our kids learning at school - it's leading some people to go back to their old habits, the drinking and the fighting" Ms Hand said.

Family loyalty makes people reluctant to dob in those responsible. The going rate is $150 for a carton of beer and $6 bottles of wine sell for $50 each.  Naturally, the rules of supply and demand prevail.

"It's the main cause of all our problems" Senior Sargeant Andrew Stevens said.  "Alcohol is behind all the domestic violence."  If he doesn't stop the next shipment, that night all hell breaks loose and despite regular highway patrols, he thinks they only confiscate about half.  There have only been six successful prosecutions in the past year. Finding the alcohol is sometimes easy but trying to prove that person intended to sell the liquor is tricky.

Ms Hand, who teaches Aboriginal girls, says she knows when a fresh load of grog is being brought in.  She sees people parked in strange places doing a roaring trade and then not long after, the fighting starts. "The community people here should wake up and help the police in regard to this" she said.