Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal Issues, said today the Government should be using some of the $277 million committed to suicide prevention during the election to address the recent increase in the number of people taking their own life in northern Australia’s Aboriginal communities.
In Question Time today, Senator Siewert addressed the spate of recent suicides in Aboriginal communities, questioning the Government’s response to the crisis and calling for the immediate development of a specific suicide prevention strategy for Aboriginal people.
“I’m concerned that the Government isn’t responding quickly enough to this situation. More resources are needed in these communities to stop further suicides, support families and strengthen communities,” Senator Siewert said.
“The Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s report The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia, released earlier this year, recommended that a strategy developed with Aboriginal communities was essential to reducing the increased risk of suicide, and should be included in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
“The recent spike in the number of Aboriginal people taking their own lives is a clear sign that the Government must prioritise services in this area.
“Senator Ludwig agreed in the Senate today to take this issue to the Mental Health Minister to see if more of the $277 million allocated for suicide prevention could be activated. To date, just $8.1 million has been committed in this financial year.
“Lifeline Australia has said that grief and loss are commonplace in Aboriginal communities, attributed to a number of factors including separation, deaths and addictions. The resulting stress is no doubt a contributing factor to the high suicide rate.
“This indicates the detail and investment required to deal with this issue and why a specific, prevention strategy for Aboriginal people is essential.
“It it critical that communities are given improved access to suicide prevention and mental health services, accompanied by the necessary intervention programs and skills training.
“The ongoing loss of life is an absolute tragedy, and it must lead to immediate action,” Senator Siewert concluded.