NSWTOx Indigenous

A blog to share information & resources for Outreachers developing & delivering services & programs for Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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Sunday, April 20

Cultural Learning Can Save Lives Say Elders

Estelle and Des Bowen already have buried a son and daughter. The heartache that came with doing that is something they don't want other parents to experience. The Cape York elders believe cultural education is the key to reversing an epidemic of youth suicides in remote Aboriginal communities. The suicide rate of indigenous teenage girls is five times higher than non-indigenous girls. For boys, it is four times higher. In some remote communities of Western Australia's Kimberley, the suicide rate is 100 times the national average. 'There's a sense of hopelessness,' Mr Bowen said, blaming overcrowding, unemployment and a lack of cultural support programs. He believes taking youngsters bush, away from modern distractions and the flow of alcohol and drugs, is vital for healing and building resilience. The only way to find out what was going on with at-risk young people was to take them fishing or hunting and to sit down with them on country. 'That's when you will find out who's hurting.' Mrs Bowen says youngsters caught between two worlds are losing their way, but the land has a power to ground them. 'They can start hunting again, feeding and looking after their families.' She laments that red tape - like cooking qualifications - is getting in the way of that approach. 'We never died from our cooking. We learnt to survive in the bush, we learnt from our elders. We never starved out in the bush.' The Elders Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm and Youth Suicide, released on Tuesday, has called for federal and state governments to support teaching culture to young people by funding programs and equipment such as four-wheel drives and camping gear. Dean Gooda, from Fitzroy Crossing in WA, warns that outsiders should not be driving suicide prevention programs. 'We end up with ideas on suicide prevention that come from Canberra and bear no resemblance to what is needed in the community and on the ground,' he said. * Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).


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