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Globally, each year at least 40 million life years are lost to suicide. In Australia, each year at least 100,000 life years are lost to suicide. In general, suicide takes more lives than all forms of violence combined. There are always pressing issues but suicide is a pressing issue that is yet to translate as a national priority. Officially, on average, suicide takes the lives of seven Australians each day and more likely ten Australian lives each day. Among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples suicide is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis – within the 15 to 35 year age group, nearly one in three deaths a suicide.

The leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 45 is suicide. More lives are lost to suicide than to road fatalities. The average age of suicide is 44.5 years, much lower than age medians of other leading causes of premature death, including cancers and heart diseases. For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders the narrative is dramatically worse, with 88 per cent of suicides being of people aged less than 45 years.

On a per person average, suicide takes more life years than any other leading cause of death in Australia. Overall, Australians lose more than 30 life years and standalone, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders in the vicinity of 50 life years. To put this into context, the average per person loss of life years for Australians who die from cancer is 8 years. With heart disease it is 4 years.

Statistics can appear impersonal, and people are not numbers, but there are narratives that only the statistics can profoundly highlight – and one of these narratives is that suicide is skewed towards people in the prime of life. Life stresses are on the increase and the expectations, the competition, the demands on the individual ever increasing from the accumulation of imposts by society.

Overall, officially, one in 19 of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders suicide – for too long for too many Australians were not aware of this and this had been Australia’s hidden truth, for a time a dirty secret. Because of under-reporting issues I believe the suicide rate is much higher, possibly even as high as one suicide in 10 deaths.

Then there are the high risk regions – the Kimberley and far north Queensland endure high suicide rates but when rates are standalone for their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations, they are abominable – at 70 suicides per 100,000 population. The world’s highest national suicide rate is 44 per 100,000 (Guyana). The Kimberley’s and far north Queensland’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide rates are also higher than the world’s highest national homicide rate, that of Venezuela, 53 murders per 100,000.

Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita and one of the world’s sturdiest economies but Australia is a tale of two peoples – the First Peoples, who are now less than 3 per cent of the total population, and the other 97 per cent. Australia’s population is around 24 million and the descendants of the First Peoples number around 700,000. But in the Australian context more than 200,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders live in relative extreme poverty. More than half the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population endure a significant direct impact from the not so long ago Stolen Generations and of the stretch that allowed for the Stolen Wages and the horrid segregation of people into missions and reserves. The Stolen Generations bred despair and hate, distrust and fear. The pain and suffering was self-evident in the tears that flowed during the Stolen Generations Apology on February 13, 2008. The missions and reserves indentured everyone as to a formal underclass of inequality and poverty and shovelled it to them as their lot, as an inescapable way of life. The missions and reserves were near lawless environments where many of those who administered and worked in the missions and reserves inflicted violence, sadomasochism, psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The missions and reserves were brutal environments, where Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children were despicably brutalised during their most important years of their life – in the years that determine their form and content, their self-determination, their psychological and physical wellbeing.

The missions and reserves were in effect hellholes, where many became mentally ill, broken down, traumatised, psychosocially broken or at best reduced.  On leaving the hellholes there was no trauma recovery, no psychologists, no healing. There was silence and at best, for better or worse, the only respite was within families. The hidden toll of the missions and reserves plays out today not just in transgenerational poverty but in transgenerational violence and various abuses.

Though most Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families, like most Australian families, do not fall victim to violence, various abuse including sexual abuse, it is true that the rate of domestic violence, violence in general and sexual abuse are higher in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families. Of course, wherever there is extreme poverty the rates for violence and abuse are higher – it’s a theme throughout the world; of extreme poverty found in middle and high income nations. However, I also believe the pronounced rates of violence, domestic violence and sexual abuse found in the statistical narratives of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities have a lot to do with the brutality and horrors of the Stolen Generations, the missions and reserves.

The bulk of global research on sexual abuse argues that the majority of violent offenders and in particular sexual abusers were victims themselves. The majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse were themselves victims. To keep to context, the majority of victims of sexual abuse and violence do not manifest as offenders, but some do. The bulk of research suggests that more than 90 per cent of offenders are former victims. Victims of sexual abuse, particularly child sex abuse, self-harm and suicide. The Royal Commission into Institutionalised Sexual Abuse has demonstrated the deplorable extensiveness of the brutality of the missions and reserves and the Boys Homes and of the ongoing impacts, the trauma, the lifelong breakdown of people. It has also been shown that there was no-one for the victims to turn to, and that many knew what was occurring but no-one would protect the children.

I have a number of friends who were sexually abused in the missions and reserves of the 1950s and 1960s or in Boys Homes during the 1970s and 1980s – and to this day they have not fully recovered, they visit psychologists – they break down – and for some, they have lived broken lives. They are the survivors, for many more than you’d imagine have taken their lives.

There is a lot of pain out there, unresolved, some of it acting out in negative and dark ways on others, those immediate to the sufferers.

There needs to be a focus on people strengthening people, on trauma recovery. For too long either by neglect, silence, narrow minded blame, or the wrong people leading in the space of trauma recovery and suicide prevention we are losing people at never before rates to depressions, mental illnesses, self-destructive behaviours, violence and suicide. The silence, narrow-minded blaming and too many people leading the show with merely the lived experience as their lot often perpetuate trauma and sideline the healing.

For all Australians, deaths by suicide have reached a ten year peak. For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples the levels of suicide are a humanitarian crisis.

The research shows that for every suicide, it is estimated as many as 30 people attempt suicide.

There should be just as much focus on suicide prevention as there is with trying to prevent homicides and domestic violence. All lives matter. There is no greater legacy that any Government can have than in the saving of lives.

But there is not the same level of focus by Governments on suicide prevention. Yet suicide takes more lives than homicides and domestic violence combined.

During the last ten years Australian homicide rates have been decreasing though tragically the number of women murdered by a current or former partner has been increasing. Domestic violence takes a life every eight days and many are calling it a national crisis. Every death is a tragedy. Suicide takes seven lives each day.

Comparatively, Australia has a low homicide rate – 1.1 homicides per 100,000 population while Venezuela, as already noted, has a homicide rate of 53.7 per 100,000 population. The majority of middle and high income nations have a homicide rate between 5 and 15 per 100,000 population.

There were 254 homicides in Australia in 2012.

There were 2,535 suicides in Australia in 2012.

Where there is a homicide thereabouts every 18 hours in Australia, there are seven suicides within 24 hours.

While homicide rates have been decreasing, suicide rates have been increasing – with the suicide rate at a ten year peak. The suicide rate is at 11 per 100,000 population, up from 9.9 in 2011.

1,901 Australian males suicided in 2012 – 16.8 per 100,000 population.

634 Australian females suicided in 2012 – 5.6 per 100,000 population.

The rate of suicide is ten times the rate of homicides.

For each of 2013, 2014 and 2015 the suicide toll will come in tragically higher than 2012.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the ten year period to June 30, 2012, there were 2,631 homicides. But there were 2,535 suicides in 2012 alone.

Of the 2,631 homicides, 41 per cent were domestic violence related deaths or 1,088 domestic violence deaths over the ten year period, with the majority of these the deaths of women.

There is a domestic violence related death – by a partner or former partner – every eight days. Domestic disputes are also a factor in suicides, with partners, mostly males, taking their own lives.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian teenagers aged 14 to 18 years.

Suicide is a leading cause of death for Australians aged 10 to 45 years of age.

The same effort that Governments have put into raising awareness of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths and the same effort they have put into campaigns to reduce road fatalities so in the least they should put into suicide prevention.


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:

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