By Jade Macmillan and Jessica Strutt
Updated Tue May 21, 2013 9:44pm AEST
More than 100 people including Indigenous leaders and government representatives attended a crisis meeting to discuss a spike in Aboriginal youth suicides.
Aboriginal leaders have described the alarming number of suicides, including children as young as 11, as an issue “tearing their hearts apart.”
They are calling for urgent action to address the problem.
Mental Health Commissioner Eddie Bartnik and Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda are among those who were present at the meeting at Clontarf.
Noongar elder Margaret Culbong says the suicide epidemic is frightening and more culturally appropriate services are urgently needed.
“We hear the same criticism coming back all the time from the community,” she said.
“They don’t know where to go for mental health treatment or for help from the mental health sector because they don’t know how to access mainstream services.”
She says the mental health services offered are too mainstream.
“There’s definitely something not working in that area,” she said.
Noongar elder Pat Kopusar says they need more Government support to tackle the issue.
“It really needs to be dealt with because if we don’t have our young people supported in some way with some future for them, well what hope have they got?”
The Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation director, Robert Eggington, says young children are taking their own lives.
“There’s been just an incredible spate,” he said.
“One of the units we’re inviting down to this crisis meeting is the Coroner’s office so that we can determine the full extent of this epidemic.
“There’s now Aboriginal people as young as 11, 12 13 that are taking their lives.
“These tragedies are really indictments against a country that’s got such affluency and richness as Australia has got.”
Mr Eggington has called for urgent community and government action, including an overhaul of Aboriginal mental health services.
“We want to be able to, as a community, put ourselves in a position of being able to heal our own people and to set up initiatives that can help deter this epidemic,” he says.
“Aboriginal people just aren’t accessing the mainstream services so we want to hopefully reach a point where we can provide those services instead.”
Mr Gooda says it is important the Indigenous community takes a lead role in addressing the issue.
He says calls for similar meetings across the country are warranted.
“I think it would be a worthwhile exercise but I don’t think we need more talk fests.”
The organisers also met briefly with the Premier Colin Barnett to express their concerns.