In 2013, the then Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce came out strongly raising the issue of the high risk of suicide for gay, lesbian and gender diverse people. Also in 2013 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy was released which highlighted the significant higher rate of suicide among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Later this month will see the release of a report I have undertaken, with the help of many people whom have contributed to its content, editing and presentation layout. This report will be the first time the subject of suicide has been specifically discussed for Indigenous_ gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people. As it stands Indigenous Australians are the highest risk group of suicide in Australia and 12th highest in the world (shutting down communities isn’t going to change that, systemic racism needs to be eradicated first and foremost). For non-Indigenous LGBTI Australians the rate of suicide is are 3.5 to 14 times higher than heterosexual non-Indigenous Australians. Data on the suicide among Indigenous people who are diverse in gender and sexuality is non-existent. But the math is frightening.
In recent times there have been several reports and papers that speak to the health and wellbeing of the gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people in Australia. However, the messaging and contribution is very caucasianesque. We have the Writing Themselves In series, 1, 2 and 3, from La Trobe University, Melbourne. From Blues To Rainbows also undertaken by La Trobe University. Most recent is the release of Are LGBT populations at a higher risk for suicidal behaviours in Australia? Research findings and implications from The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at Griffith University. This publication made no mention of Indigenous people. Having read through these documents, they are no doubt worthy contributions to the gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse health and wellbeing discourse. What is disappointing is that there is zero acknowledgement, discussion or recommendation for research to be undertaken to look at the relationship between suicide and the wellbeing of us Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people.
My forthcoming report, Voices from the Black Rainbow: The inclusion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI Sistergirl and Brotherboys people in health, wellbeing and suicide prevention strategies, released later this month is by no means the panacea to this gap in research and scholarly application. It is however hoped that it is appreciated as piece of work highlighting that Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people are worthy of further research and consideration. How this research is done is as important as the work itself. There will need to be Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people included at the initiation of such a research project and recognised as co-chief/lead investigators. The old chestnut nothing for us, without us is important for a number of reasons. The first being that it indicates you are serious about a partnership, and not out simply to acquire ownership of the work. The second is self-determination. Self-determination is evidenced as a protective factor to suicide. Whiteness and heterocentrism are not mutually exclusive determinants of health for Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people. Both are ubiquitous. Both are harmful to an individual’s and a population’s health. Feeling might get hurt, but people’s lives are at stake.
At a policy level, we also need to be present. There are many veils to heterocentrism and the Indigenous community is not immune from this either. Yet, there is movement at the station. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) has a national advisor committee on which I sit. I am however the sole Indigenous sexuality diverse person of this committee, and I am male and cisgender. Notwithstanding, there are some mighty fine achievements in need of celebrating. In March saw the release of the first ever federally funded national suicide roundtable report focusing solely on Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people. This report that was populated by a roundtable discussion, from Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people, of which I was assigned co-facilitator. Future directions however, will require an Indigenous Islander gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse leading the facilitation.
Preventing suicide among Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse people starts with inclusion. Inclusion within the both the Indigenous community and the gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse population at large. One of the tenements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse roundtable report, and indeed of Voices from the Black Rainbow, is that our self-determination and ownership is fundamental to any future directions. Fundamental to preventing Indigenous gay, lesbian and gender and sexuality diverse peoples’ suicides. Fundamental to our survival. The inclusion of us this May, at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference Coming Together For a Greater Tomorrow in Alice Springs is the first step on many more to come.