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Urgent action needed to address Aboriginal youth suicides, warns Save the Children

Following an alarming spike in Aboriginal youth suicides in recent weeks, Save the Children is calling for greater coordination and funding for programs that address underlying issues
07 February 2019

This month alone, five girls aged between 12 and 15 took their own lives, including three in Western Australia. 

Save the Children Youth Worker Montana Ahwon, from Kununurra, attended today’s urgent meeting in Perth, organized by the federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt. The meeting was attended by two Aboriginal young people from the Kimberly region and suicide prevention experts.

Ms Ahwon said the recent increase was worrying and urgent action was needed.
It is beyond a tragic whenever a young person takes their own life, let alone five. Aboriginal children are significantly over-represented when it comes to youth suicide, and while there are some programs and supports in place, it’s clear that a number of young people are still falling through the cracks,” Ms Ahwon said.

Life can be difficult for young people, particularly if they experience any form of disadvantage, lack self-esteem or don’t have strong support networks. It’s critical that young people in these situations can access services and have somewhere to go to talk. From my role as a youth worker, I know that being able to talk can make all the difference.  

Having a positive role model and someone who cares about you, like as a mentor is a protective factor against risks such as self-harm and suicide.”

Ms Ahwon said she was pleased Minister Wyatt called the meeting and hoped it would lead to concrete actions that tackle the issue.
Today’s meeting showed a very clear intent to seriously address the issue of youth suicide, and particularly Aboriginal youth suicide in Western Australia,” she said.

There was widespread agreement that things need to change. I am hopeful this will lead to greater funding for vital services supporting young people, as well as improved coordination so we don’t have people falling through the gaps.

Save the Children works throughout Western Australia, including in Aboriginal communities in Broome, Kununurra and Perth, supporting young people to stay in school and build resilience to the challenges in their lives.

The organization’s Night Patrol and Chilling Space in Kununurra help young people who are on the streets, in contact with the juvenile justice system, or at-risk of abuse, neglect, and physical and psychological harm, to find a safe place to play sports, express themselves creatively and participate in cultural activities with friends.

The head of the federal government’s indigenous critical response team recently predicted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will soon comprise half of all youth suicides.

For interviews, call Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937

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