Recently, the Kimberley’s suicide-riddled Beagle Bay community hosted a ‘March for Life‘ march where a carved baton was handed to the region’s State parliamentarian, Kija woman Josie Farrer. The call for help in saving lives was taken by Ms Farrer to State Parliament.
The Kimberley is enduring a prevalence of spates of Aboriginal youth suicides, the highest in the nation. Last week, Ms Farrer read out to the Legislative Assembly, “We, the members of the community of the Kimberley say that Western Australian Aboriginal communities, have the highest suicide rates not just in the nation but in the world. Mowanjum and Derby have the highest Aboriginal youth suicide rates in Australia. The suicide epidemic has affected every single community and town in the Kimberley.”
“On 17th September a community event, the ‘March for Life‘ was held by the Beagle Bay community to advocate for unity on proactive approaches to suicide prevention.”
Ms Farrer presented the baton which she said was carved “from a special medicine tree by Walmajarri Elder Dunba Nunju.” Ms Farrer recited a story by Beagle Bay Elder Mary Victor-O’Reeri of Dunba to her colleagues. “Dunba would always take notice of his uncle. His uncle would come from his walk about, walking from station to station, waterhole to waterhole. Along the way hunting and gathering. This old man he would always have his special baton with him. Everywhere this old man would go and every person he would meet, this special baton was always with him. This old man put Dunba through ceremony. This old man taught Dunba everything that he knows now. He never consumed alcohol and lived to a very old age. When he passed away they buried the baton with him.”
“Dunba said that this baton his uncle carried with him was a baton of survival, strength and shared the message of hope to all people from all areas.” Ms Farrer said the newly carved baton handed to Parliament was passed through the hands of nine Beagle Bay families who have lost numerous loved ones to suicide.”
“Each family member poured their strength, hope, love, and a special blessing into the Baton of Life.”
“We now ask that the Western Australian Parliament and (its) members assembled take immediate action and effective action to address this tragic loss of life in the Kimberley.”
Ms Farrer has been touched by the scourge of suicide, with the loss of her grandchild a couple of years ago. Aboriginal adult and youth suicides nationwide have reached crisis levels. After sustained coverage of this scourge by this news site, by The National Indigenous Times and by The National Indigenous Radio Service, the Federal Government’s Indigenous Advisory Group chair, Warren Mundine has included the addressing of the suicide crisis to his group’s mandate.
Broome’s Bishop Christopher Saunders who had attended the Beagle Bay ‘March for Life‘ said, “How many suicides, how many more deaths will it take to open our eyes, and open our ears to the silent screaming that is coming from the hearts and souls of those who are gone, and of those who grieve and keep screaming ‘help’.” According to ABS data collated, there have been 996 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths by suicide between 2001 to 2011, but according to my research I estimate that ATSI suicides are higher than 100 per annum, and anywhere between 150 to 200 per annum.
“The Government needs to assist by investing more resources and more funding into preventative support programs, especially in to remote communities,” said Ms Farrer.