Three young people took their lives within a fortnight. They knew each other. There are no words for their loss, no words that can calm the grief of their families. Their community despairs. Three funerals in five days, days shy of Christmas. A fifteen year old girl, a seventeen year old youth, a 25 year old father leaving behind two young children, they should not have been lost. Suicide takes more lives than road fatalities. It is a leading cause of death.

I stood amid the mourning, a community at perennial loss and amid those whom work in suicide prevention and postvention and suffer their own pernicious sense of loss. Three graves in a row, of young people, this image will never leave me. We were not put on this earth to bury our children. But we do.

However we must remain solid, we must respond, we must make a difference, we must never degenerate to the belief that it’s all too hard and that there is little we can do.

For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people the extensiveness of suicide is an abomination – moral, political and otherwise. If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander aged 15 to 35 years of age, nearly one in three deaths in this age group is a suicide. Why are so many taking their lives?

ABC News – 1 in 3 deaths a suicide

Suicide takes more life years than other leading causes of death. Suicide takes more life years on average than cancer and heart disease.

In the last couple of years, suicide and suicide prevention have been highlighted and discussed in the media much more so than ever before. The ways forward are the imperative discussion but to understand the ways forward we must acknowledge the underlying factors.

Nearly 90 per cent of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicides are of people aged 40 years and less. We need to restore hope.

The deplorable disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal suicides cannot be radically reduced without addressing the abominable racialised inequalities. At two of the three funerals I attended it saddened me to witness that the large funeral attendances barely had a non-Aboriginal presence in an otherwise predominant non-Aboriginal population. The racial divides were self-evident. With the racial divide intersect disadvantage, economic inequalities. On the edge of this regional town, like so many other towns, is a shanty precinct. About 100 Aboriginal people, mostly children, live in the most trying conditions, with no electricity or water. However the non-Aboriginal population lives relatively affluent. The juxtaposition of grinding poverty alongside affluence tells the tale of two peoples; two separated peoples. This played out at two of the funerals I attended where less than 2 per cent of those present were non-Aboriginal.

Listen to: ABC interview with journalist Nadine Maloney – spreading the love

How is it that the local, state and federal governments can turn a blind eye to this impoverishment, to this third-world-akin living in the world’s 12th largest economy, in one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita? Western Australia boasts a place in the world’s top three regions for highest median wage. Of all the world’s poor, middle and high income nations with relatively recent colonial oppressor histories, Australia has the widest divide between the descendants of its First Peoples and the rest of the population of all the measurable indicators; of poverty indicators, of homelessness, of health quotients, of employment and education levels, of arrest and jail rates, of self-harm and suicide rates. Australia is a high income nation, not one of the world’s poor nations.

What I saw in this regional town, as I have seen in so many other communities across this continent is very little effort expended by local, state and federal governments to address the generational poverty. If non-Aboriginal families lived in a shanty precinct, well that would not be allowed. There would be water and electricity.

In the Kimberley, one in eight of the region’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders live in some form of homelessness.

The Kimberley and far north Queensland’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations according to my comparative data research (of what is available) have the world’s highest suicide rates. The toll is decimating communities. The Kimberley will report for 2014 and 2015 higher suicide tolls than in previous years.

I have visited hundreds of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities across the continent and many are corrals of impoverishment. They have been degraded by one government after another, many of them stripped of what little social infrastructure they once had. Many of these communities have to beg for water tanks let alone clean water, beg for power lines, beg for essential services that Australians in general take for granted. The majority of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities are denied an equivalency of services as enjoyed by non-Aboriginal communities.

Unless these disparities are addressed we will be attending many more funerals. The crippling poverty, the hopelessness, anger and displaced anger will continue the narrative. Many of us do change lives, save lives. I can count hundreds that I have assisted out of poverty but in the end the tsunami of poverty related issues are flooding us. For every person we help, there are ten we cannot find the time or resources to help. Change has to be underwritten governmentally.

Far too many dish out the self-responsibility mantra, that everyone can take control of their lives, that they are to blame if they do not. My colleague and partner,  Jennifer Kaeshagen, who also coordinates the  First Nations Homelessness Project, stated wisely, “They’re re-traumatised by those kind of messages. It makes it very difficult to heal and to cope with their situation when on top of the reality for them they’re being blamed for that reality.”

The record is not being changed, if only, the gap is not being closed, if only. The record is getting worse, the divide widening.

Our parliamentarians should hang their heads in shame, preferably they should resign en masse. Their indictors are a quarter of a million of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who have been denied equality and who have been dished out chronic disadvantage, with the majority of them in third-world-akin disadvantage.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Islander youth are at least 26 times more likely to be in juvenile detention than non-Aboriginal youth. By 2025 this national rate will pass 40 times. From a racialised lens the juvenile detention rate is the highest in the world.

There are more than 10,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adults in prisons. That is one in 35 of all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adults jailed. Once again, highest in the world.

At least one in 10 and up to one in 6 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders living have been to jail. This means between 85,000 to 100,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. Once again the rate is the highest in the world.

In regards to that mother of jailers, Western Australia, one in 13 of the State’s Aboriginal adult males is in prison. Despite the structural and institutional racism, the veils and layers of racism, this is racism – clear as the light of day.

Western Australia jails its juvenile detention Aboriginal youth at 53 times the rate of non-Aboriginal youth. Western Australia, the nation’s backwater, just refuses to spend on improving the lives of Aboriginal youth.

Fix the third-world-akin poverty because for as long as this does not happen then quite rightly it translates toxically as racism. It hurts deeply and divides people as it hurt me to see only a few non-Aboriginal people turn out at the funerals.

Adelaide based Narrunga Elder, Tauto Sansbury stated, “Too many of our people are extremely poor.”

“Native Title has failed us, governments have failed us and on top of this we cop blame.”

“If we want a fair and equal society we can have it tomorrow if today we fix the poverty without delay. Our youth are entitled to genuine hope.”

As I stood amid the cries, wailing, tears of broken spirits, of so many looking down at the ground, as I stood on the cemetery grounds watching a child buried I remembered my good friend Tauto Sansbury who in the first 13 days of 2012 attended eight funerals of young people. I was upset with myself that I failed to be elected to the Australian Senate in 2013 by thereabouts 2,000 votes, where if I had been I could have made a significant difference. I do my best, having pushed onto the Australian landscape national projects to craft systemic changes, to help as many people improve their lot, to save as many lives as possible. But though lives will be saved it is not enough, the real difference can only be served up by governments. We can never give up. In several hours I travel home to spend Christmas Day with my family.

We were not put on this earth to bury our children.

Suicide should not be a leading cause of death.

It is plain as the day what we must do and if we do not then the night will make us pay.

ABC News – We all need to care for one another


Declaration of impartiality conflict – Gerry Georgatos is a suicide prevention researcher and participatory in several national suicide prevention projects.


Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline, 13 11 14

Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636


Other articles and media on the suicide crisis and suicide prevention by Gerry Georgatos:

Risk of death high after release from prison

Child suicides higher than reported

Recovery the focus

40 million life years lost to suicide

Hidden truths – it is worse, not better

Some want to portray things on the improve

Suicide in people numbers instead of comparative rates
Oppression is the cause of the majority of the suicides

It is not a competition but suicide is the leading cause of death

Do not play with peoples’ lives

It is not like me to cry

Call for a national inquiry

Catastrophic suicide crisis will escalate “unless”…

One in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been to jail

An eleven year old suicides – nine months later his mother takes her life

Understanding the abominable jail and suicide rates

The issue of our time – 1 in 3 deaths by suicide

When the right people lead then lives will be saved

Truth, not lies on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention rates

A moral abomination – a narrative that is racialised; of human suffering and misery

Plato said engage with our politicians or risk being governed by the dumb – the suicide crises

Stop selling resilience 

Another misguided reductionist plan to reduce rates of suicide self-harm

The leading cause of death – for 15 to 44 year old Australians – is suicide | The Stringer

People strengthening people focus on suicide prevention

Understanding difference and unfairness is a first step in suicide prevention | The Stringer

Taboo, stigma and shame need to get out of the way for suicide prevention | The Stringer

Suicide is heading to a humanitarian crisis – it is a leading cause of death | The Stringer

Suicides are preventable – here is what we must begin to do | The Stringer

The extensiveness of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander suicides – 1 in 20 | The Stringer

Preventing suicide – “no greater legacy” | The Stringer

Understanding Australia’s suicide crises

Shame job Australia – they came through the gate with my boy’s body 

Suicides, high among overseas born and second generation Australians

Child suicidal ideation on the increase

It is racism killing our people – suicides born of racism

Kimberley suicide rate – one of the world’s highest – Yiriman is the way to go

My Country – But look how I am forced to live

What will it take to end Aboriginal disadvantage, the inequalities and the various crises?

What sort of Australia is this? Seven homeless children in an asbestos slum

Six homeless children fighting for a better tomorrow

Quality of life for Australians 2nd only to Norway but for Aboriginal Peoples 122nd

Dumbartung convenes suicide crisis summit

Suicide attempts among women on the rise

Australia’s Aboriginal children detained at the world’s highest rates

Culture should not be denied – change needs unfolding, not impost

Everyone in the Territory doing well, except for Aboriginal Peoples

Australia’s Aboriginal children, the world’s highest suicide rate

Wes Morris slams government suicide prevention programs

How many more suicides will it take? How many more deaths?

Hopelessness in suicide riddled communities

More government neglect of Aboriginal children

In identity lay the answers – ATSI suicides

$25.4 billion spent on Aboriginal disadvantage is a lie

Beagle Bay to State Parliament – Farrer speaks out on suicides

Government to address Aboriginal suicides


996 Aboriginal deaths by suicide – another shameful Australian record

996 deaths by suicide – one in 24 die by suicide

Australia’s Aboriginal suicide epidemic – whose child will be the next to die?

77 Aboriginal suicides in South Australia alone

Kimberley’s Aboriginal peoples old at 45 years

Australia, the mother of all jailers of Aboriginal people

Close the gap failed

Despite what’s being reported, life expectancy not improving for ATSI peoples – 1 in 3 dead by 45 years of age

Tumult of death – 400 suicides in last three years

30 suicides in the last three months as we wait for promises to be kept

Suicide crisis – genocidal numbers

Suicide crisis – from tragic to catastrophic

Suicide crisis needs real funding and actions

Hundreds more will suicide if we wait for 2015

Nothing will be done about suicides crisis

Scullion bent on saving lives

Elders across Australia say governments need to listen to them on how to address youth suicide

Suicides – western society and ancient cultures clash

If we are serious about suicide prevention

Australia’s suicide crisis should not be played down – the media must highlight it

From my father’s death bed to the must-do to end the suicides

Governments promise on ending suicides must come good now

More confirmation of what everyone knows, was suicide prevention inadequate

The must-do need to listen and trust if suicides crisis is to end

Working together – mental health and suicide prevention roundtable

Break the taboo around suicides, we reduce suicides

Suicide crises born of Australia’s inhumanity

Suicides – children

Suicides crisis linked to incarceration

Wes Morris urges funding for cultural methodologies

The betrayal of our children – the Northern Territory

New project offers hope to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides

Depression and suicide prevention must be top of the agenda this century

World Suicide Prevention Day – suicide takes more lives than war

Western Australia – 1 in 13 in a jail, a bullshit state of affairs

Forgotten children of the promised land – the fight to save rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Yiriman saving lives in the midst of the Kimberley’s suicide crises

Healing Halls Creek

The smaller a community, the less likely a suicide

Overcoming disadvantage report shows disadvantage not overcome

600 Black deaths in custody by 2025 – jail numbers to soar

Get out of the way – Aboriginal suicide rates will drop

A nation shamed when the solution for its children is homelessness

Christmas, a period of vulnerability for many

Stop peddling lies $30 billion spent on Indigenous disadvantage is a lie

To end our trauma government must stop the assault on our people and our culture

In Australia there is the Aboriginal rights struggle

Kirstie Parker, Mick Gooda say enough of fine words – close the gap a big fat lie

Highest child removal rates in the world worse than Stolen Generations

Stop examining the oppressed – instead examine the oppressor 

CAAMA Radio – Speaking out on Aboriginal suicide

CAAMA Radio – We need to be there for them