Where self-prophesising behaviour is gifted to some parts of the wider Australian community, for Indigenous people it often described by outsiders as ‘rites of passage’.
This narrative continues the discourse of mythical otherness and savagery. Conjuring historical and pre-settler ways of initiation and conflating them into a modern context.
Sections of the media that perpetuate this have to accept blame as much as the environment in which self-prophesising happens. If you are repeatedly reinforcing the negative aspects of a person’s life and culture, it will affect a person’s behaviours and create a situation for them to be fulfilled.
Suicides happen in every day life, but when they involve whiter, urban, rural and remote folk, they do not receive the prejudicial condemnation that Indigenous people do. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15–24. Suicide, or intentional self-harm, for 5–14 year old Australians rated highest in Queensland and New South Wales, between 2010–14, 32 and 14 respectively.
Recently a young Aboriginal child in a remote Aboriginal community ended her own life. I am not aware of the intimate circumstances surrounding this tragedy; other than what played out in the news. Yet these two pieces by James Fitzpatrick and Gerry Georgatos, people who have been there and worked out there, spoke positively of that community.
I don’t recall the towns, communities, or suburbs where 32 or 14 children under the age 14 who died by suicide received such rebuke on their environment like some areas of the media cop to Aboriginal communities.
Personally, I find it hard to fathom that a child of that age knows the consequences of behaviours or what death or finality actually means. Regardless, sections of the media memorialise those lost to suicide by the colour of their skin. Because if that skin is ‘black’, let the demonisation begin.
By no means what-so-ever is the ‘suicide prevention sector’ not immune from such memorialising of white Australia. Scroll through the Facebook pages of some of Australia’s largest non-Indigenous non-government mental health organisations (NINGOS) and count the number of Aboriginal people represented. If we are represented, it is largely through the benevolence of a saviour mentality. The wails and cries of Indigenous people are a commodity to both the media and the health sector at large.
But when you memorialise white Australia over black Australia in the way that you do, you are dishonouring all lives lost to suicide. Death is not a commodity to trade in. Racialising suicides this way, only makes you worse.
Originally published on Croakey