The Noongar peoples of Western Australia as a distinct population group are the nation’s most at risk population group to suicide. The suicide toll among Noongar people has tragically reached the highest number of suicides of any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population group.
Of Australian cities, Perth is recording the highest number of First Nations’ suicides.
This year alone thus far Perth’s Armadale to Midland corridor has recorded double the number of suicides than the whole of the Kimberley region’s suicides.
For two decades, proportion to population, regionally the Kimberley has been mired with the highest rate of First Nations’ suicides – followed by far north Queensland, south east Queensland and south western WA. However in terms of a distinct cultural identity of First Nations peoples the Noongar peoples are recording the highest number of suicides and rate.
2017 will record a higher suicide toll than 2016 for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples – and proportion to population will continue to record a rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples two and half times the overall Australian suicide rate.
However the Noongar peoples of south western Australia as a population group are losing more people to suicide than any other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population group. The suicide rate of Noongar peoples is almost three times the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate.
The Noongar peoples number nearly 40,000 and comprise nearly 5 per cent of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population but the Noongar peoples account for between 12.5 to 15 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides.
As a suicide prevention and poverty researcher and as someone who supports suicide affected families, I can validate research with the experiential. There is an intersection of extreme poverty with the suicides.
Cumulative despair, aberrant behaviours, attempted suicides and suicides are increasing and sadly will continue to do so; this is the grim reality. Tragically, the Noongar peoples of Western Australia will record an extraordinary high number of suicides for 2018. The majority of the suicides have been occurring in Perth.
It should be unimaginable that the suicide toll is higher in Perth than in most of regional and remote Australia where there are deprivations. Perth is a critical mass of services but most of the services are in-reach – inhouse services as opposed to outreach. There is a dire need, urgent, for a variety of substantive outreach services to respond and address the firmament of issues that are overwhelming the critically vulnerable.
Without the relentless psychosocial supports of a substantial outreach workforce the poverty cycle that intersects with suicide and aberrant behaviour will continue to take lives, decimate families. Noongar peoples have a suicide rate nearly three times the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate.
Abominably, one in 10 Noongar males are incarcerated, from a racialised lens the highest in the nation, in fact in the world. One in 9 of Perth’s Noongar children have been removed into out-of-home care. If this at-risk layer of Noongar peoples is not highlighted and if there is no shared understanding of their catastrophic predicament they risk being left behind to increasingly fill the prisons, finish up homeless, suicide. We have a moral obligation to do so much more than the relatively little that is being done for those most in need.
- This is a series of real time Australian elevated risk groups – population and categorical groups – to suicide, incarceration, child removals by independent researcher Gerry Georgatos.
- Disclaimer – Gerry Georgatos is also the National Coordinator Critical Support Advocates for the National Indigenous Critical Response Service and the Project Coordinator of the National Migrant Youth Support Service.