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Suicide rate among Aboriginal Australians a national disgrace and the costs are mounting

Huge toll: Suicides of Aboriginal Australians as young as 11 are placing enormous financial burden on the indigenous community, according to a Murri Ministry co-ordinator.

SUICIDES of Aboriginal Australians as young as 11 are placing enormous financial burden on the indigenous community, Murri Ministry co-ordinator Ravina Waldren said.

“There are huge costs associated with burying our loved ones,” Ms Waldren said. 

“We’re looking at around $9000 every time some of our young people are suiciding, and families are grieving already without having to worry about the cost of the service and how to manage that.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2019 Budget, which was announced last week, has been criticised for its lack of funding for Indigenous youth suicide.

“We just don’t have one suicide we have many suicides,” Ms Waldren said. 

“Everyone of those loved ones that are left behind has a drastic affect right across the community – like a ripple affect every time that there’s a death of one of our people.”

Ms Waldren said that some Indigenous people are burying three members of their own family per year.

“We just don’t have those funds,” Ms Waldren said. 

“We get together as a community to try and help families get through that without the extra burden. It’s devastating enough as it is.” 

Catholic Social Services Australia Jesuit Father Frank Brennan said last week, “the allocation of a mere $5 million over four years to address the present endemic situation of Aboriginal youth suicide is just lamentable”.

Reverend Aunty Alex Gater – a founding member of the Anglican Church in Cherbourg – said Aboriginal Australians who were incarcerated – many for “petty offences like fare evasion” were being charged $2000 by the Queensland Government to attend funerals of loved ones. 

“When there’s a loved one passed away and an Aboriginal person is in prison and wants to attend the funeral they will charge them $2000 to go from Wacol to Cherbourg,” Rev Gater said.

“Aboriginal people don’t have the finances. 

“This is not justice, or reconciliation. 

“They’re making money out of the suffering of Aboriginal people.

“I’m a Respected Elder on the Brisbane Murri court. 

“They sit every Wednesday in Brisbane and I’ve had this said to me personally, ‘Aunty Alex I’m on Murri court today and I have to jump the train to come to court, otherwise the police will come to arrest me for failing to appear in court or report’. 

“We give them some money now to come in – we give them Go Cards.”

Rev Gater met with deputy premier Jackie Trad recently to demand action on what she called a “national disgrace”. 

“In Ms Trad’s electorate there are homeless Aboriginal people,” Rev Gater said. 

“She said she has a passion for Aboriginal people, but this time we have to see it.

“This is what we’re telling the Government, we want action, and we want our voices heard.

“ We don’t want lip service. 

“They talk about closing the gap. 

“The Prime Minister was out here campaigning in Queensland and he mentioned closing the gap. 

“Before they can close the gap they need to fix all the problems, all the unresolved issues from past governments and present governments.”

Rev Gater said a primary reason for high suicide rates in the Aboriginal community was a lack of jobs – an issue she said had been exacerbated by increased immigration levels.

“Aboriginal people have been pushed aside,” Rev Gater said.

“510,000 people have come to live here in Australia and they’re taking jobs from Aboriginal people. 

“Aboriginal people are being evicted from their homes. 

“It’s taking everything from Aboriginal people.

“We’re going to continue to speak up – we’re raising the young ones to step up, speak up and stand up.” 

Ms Trad was contacted for comment, but did not reply before publication deadline. 

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