20 July, 2016

Royal Commission needed urgently into catastrophic suicide rates in Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal health services today called on all parties to back a Royal Commission into the devastating rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people as a priority for the new Federal parliament.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Care Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Matthew Cooke, described statistics showing that as many as one in 10 deaths of Aboriginal people were suicide as a national disgrace.

According to the The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP), around 5.2 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths are officially registered as suicides but the figures could be closer to 1 in 10.

A report in the Medical Journal of Australia last month found that remote Western Australian communities with suicide rates in West Australia’s Kimberly region doubling over the past decade. Of 102 of the 125 people who took their life in the Kimberley in the past decade were Indigenous.

Of those, 70 per cent had never been referred to the mental health service. Young Indigenous men make up 71 per cent of suicide victims over the past decade in the region. Most were under 30, with 27 per cent in their teens.

“In any other country, in any other part of the world these statistics would be a cause of national shame and soul searching,” Cooke said.

“And quite frankly, if these numbers applied to any group of non-indigenous kids in Sydney or Melbourne, there would be pages of newspaper print and no amount of money, resources or political effort spared to address the issue.

“It’s time there was a full Royal Commission into failings in the system that are driving so many people in our communities to such levels of despair that suicide is the only answer; and into what systemic changes we need to put in place to reverse such appalling statistics.

“We’ve had Royal Commissions for so many reason in this country, we need one as a matter of urgency into an issue that is costing the lives of too many Australians and devastating entire communities.”

People can sign the change.org petition calling for action at

Media contact: Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280