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Suicide among Australia’s Indigenous population is significantly higher than the general Australian population. Estimates suggest that, in some years, the suicide rate for Indigenous people in specific communities is as much as 40% higher than that for the Australian population as a whole. Over the past 30 years Indigenous suicide has increased, with young Indigenous males being the most at risk. 

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In line with patterns across the general population of Australia, Indigenous males are considerably more likely to die by suicide than Indigenous females. The following shows that the same pattern within each gender is evident for the different age groupings.

Indigenous males

  • Age 0-24: 30 per 100,000
  • Age 25-34: 105* per 100,000
  • Age 35-44: 62 per 100,000

Indigenous females

  • Age 0-24: 10 per 100,000
  • Age 25-34:  20 per 100,000
  • Age 35-44: 17 per 100,000

Source: ABS (2008) The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Catalogue No. 4704.0)

Indigenous and non-Indigenous suicide rate discrepancy

According to the most recent ABS statistics (2001-2005), Indigenous males aged 44 years or younger are up to three times more likely to complete suicide than males who are not Indigenous. The discrepancy between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous male suicide rate aged 45 and over is approximately equal. A similar pattern is apparent for females.

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Issues to consider

Cultural differences need to be considered when working within Indigenous communities. The following are some suggestions to consider:

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  • Interconnected community focus on the following factors:
    1. spiritual;
    2. physical;
    3. emotional;
    4. social; and 
    5. cultural.  
  • Focus on promotion of protective factors rather than suicide prevention

Approaches to verbal and nonverbal communication. These can include:

  • use of non-confrontational language;
  • being a patient listener; and 
  • asking for clarification when uncertain.  

It is helpful to employ Indigenous workers where possible and workers who are culturally sensitive in suicide prevention activities. You may also like to consider engaging a cultural consultant and maintaining awareness of variation between different Indigenous communities.

For more information and resources, try the following:

  • Conduct a library search using the keyword 'Indigenous' 
  • View the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Indigenous progams
  • Go to LIFE's links page
  • Read LIFE News issue 3: Indigenous

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Key organisations

The following are some organisations that promote social and emotional wellbeing within Indigenous communities.

Mibbinbah exists to create safe spaces for spirit healing, empowerment, celebration and education and  training for Indigenous Men. The three-year research program aims to provide an understanding of what makes Indigenous Men’s Spaces safe and healthy places for men and how this might benefit families and communities.

Indigenous Psychological Services
Indigenous Psychological Services is a private company designed to address the inequities that exist for Indigenous people in relation to appropriate levels of access to specialist and culturally specific mental health and psychological services.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is the national peak Aboriginal health body representing Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services throughout Australia.

The National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association Inc
The National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association Inc works to bring together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers as a professional body, to exchange information, ideas, and to network for the benefit of our communities.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is the world’s premier institution for information and research about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, past and present.