indigenist

Advocating for Indigenous Genius, Indigeneity and Wellbeing


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Reconciliation and Decolonisation in Suicide Prevention

QUITE tragically, as you are reading these first few words there is a high probability somebody will attempt to end their life by suicide. There is even a higher probability that that somebody is part of the LGBTI community, particularly if they are at the point of self-realisation and disclosure. If that person is an Indigenous Australian, the probability amplifies yet again.

How do I know this? Because that’s what the evidence suggests. LGBTI people are said to have the highest rates of self-harm and suicide of any population in Australia. Same-sex attracted Australians are said to exhibit up to 14-times-higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 996 suicides reported across Australia between 2001 and 2010 among Indigenous peoples. We are told that 1.6 per cent of all Australians die by suicide but for Indigenous peoples, this rate is more than 4.2 per cent, or one in every 24.

As mentioned, the evidence only suggests this because we are coalescing the data from two different groups and hypothesising the math. In other words we aren’t really sure.

However, when we aggregate the data for the Kimberley region and take one particular town during 2012, there were 40 young people who died by suicide. That’s nearly 100 times the national average. Now, I’m not suggesting that these young people were members of the LGBTI community. However, when the social determinants affecting Aboriginal people are seen as a causation of suicidality, the question does have to be asked, what is the amplified risk if they are LGBTI?

To explore what happens when the Indigenous and LGBTI world comes together, intersectionality theory is a way of understanding and uncovering any potential health inequalities. It is also a great way to highlight those previously unknown, caused by a kaleidoscope of social inequalities, whether it be race, gender, class, and/or sexuality.

For the LGBTI community, homophobia, either perceived or actual, is a precursor to one’s level of psychological distress. And if, as suggested, same-sex attracted Australians are up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, then homophobia, transphobia, cisgenderism, biphobia, sexism, and hetereosexist behaviours play a big part in how well someone lives, and someone dying.

For Indigenous Australians, other factors are at play and overlaid. These include racism, social location, socioeconomic disparities and intergenerational trauma. The psychological distress caused by these determinants can lead to complex mental health and drug and alcohol issues, such as manifestations of violence toward oneself (self-harm) or others: domestic, family and lateral violence.

So I have raised and discussed the issues and attempted to converse about the tragedy of suicide in the least sensational or emotive way. So where to from here? I’d like to know, because I don’t have the answers. However, I do have some starting points. First, I’m going go start by sharing with you a quote. A quote that is often referred to as the Lilla Watson quote: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Participating with the view of being part of the liberation of Indigenous people is the single most overlooked and fundamental principle of genuinely inclusive work. Being part of the liberation is also knowing when you are required and a good indication of that is when you have been asked. Don’t let an over-zealous sense of entitlement to charity or benevolence be your motivation. Also pay attention to the research. Cultural continuity is a protective factor to suicide.

The great Writing Themselves In series, Growing Up Queer report and the current research by Dr Delaney Skerritt provides opportunity for us, as Indigenous researchers and members of the Indigenous LGBTI community, to come up with strengthening solutions. The time is ripe for those who are willing to come on this journey with us, to support us and share your resources with us. I personally believe that the issues facing the Indigenous LGBTI community, once identified and workshopped to discover actions to respond, can be added as an amendment or appendant to national strategies and health plans. Structures already exist for us to coexist within. And if the collaborative work is underpinned by liberation, an enhanced sense of reconciliation can truly happen within the LGBTI community.

I am the founder of LGBTI Indigenous Australian social network Black Rainbow and these are my thoughts on the lack of solid mental health data available among LGBTI Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

This first appeared in the Star Observer and can be found here : Reconciliation and Decolonisation in Suicide Prevention

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Aboriginal Suicide is Different by Colin Tatz

An expert from Chapter 10. Towards Alleviation

I prefer the words ‘alleviation’ or ‘mitigation’ to the conventional ‘prevention’. One can only prevent what one knows is likely to happen, and then only of one can clearly identify a cause which can be ameliorated or mitigated. We do not know the causes of youth suicide. ‘Prevention’ has not diminished youth suicide in Australia, New Zealand, North America, the Scandinavian countries, Scotland, Sri Lanka or the Pacific Islands, in each of which the rates of youth suicide have escalated markedly. All we can do is try to slow, or deflect, the development of trends towards attempts at suicide.”

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Aboriginal Suicide is Different


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There is very little Indigenous anthropological material regarding the historical place of LGBTI Sistergirl and Brotherboy Indigenous Australians.

 Black Rainbow

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There is very little Indigenous anthropological material regarding the historical place of LGBTI Sistergirl and Brotherboy Indigenous Australians. What has been accessible is predominately framed within sexual health or to be specific a HIV/AIDS context; not our histories or roles and functions. Black Rainbows aims to make visible Indigenous LGBQTI Sistergirl and Brotherboy peoples.

Here in Australia there is limited information/resources/stories accessible of Brotherboys in Men’s Health. There is also limited information in the general space of positive social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention.

The representation of other colonised nations’ multiple sexualities and genders has a place informing the discussion regarding Indigenous Australian LGBTI Sistergirls and Brotherboys. On the Black Rainbow facebook page, what is shared is what is available. Some reports are out of print and have had to be sourced from overseas (Did you meet any Malagas by Dr Dino Hodge was purchased from Amazon) or hunted down through archives (Malaga to Malaga by Gary Lee which was purchased as scanned PDF copies from a Canberra library).

I have been heartened by discovering The Postgrad Sista: A Blog about Indigenous Gender Diversity and become good friends with the author. In the Guest section of Indigenous Consultancy you will find a couple of blogs by The Postgrad Sista.

Cultural considerations that prohibit certain things being shared and conversations and sharing does also happen away from non-Indigenous spaces.

Black Rainbow is run from Broome, WA.

Please feel free to share anything you come across and you can either message directly on here or email BlkRnBow@gmail.com

Black Rainbow is part of a larger network and conversation and its primary function is about visibility and keeping the conversation going. In under three months it has managed to do just that. Last week Black Rainbow was the front page of the most circulated gay and read gay street press, the Star Observer.

Check it out here : http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/deadly-initiative-black-rainbow-flies-flag-proudly/11814

Black Rainbow exists primary as a resource of information sharing, conversation and visibility. It will no doubt grow as it too is organic and it is hoped that it will grow beautifully.

It is not the voice of Indigenous Australian LGBTI Sistergirls and Brotherboys but one of the many mechanisms for those voices.

Thank you for your interest in Black Rainbow, your membership is much appreciated.

The Black Rainbow Facebook Page

 Our Facebook page is here : www.facebook.com/BlackRainbowAustralia

Here are some posters Black Rainbow developed. 

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I have a friend. She’s kinda amazing. Her name is Sharon Davis @_AboriginalEng

I have a friend. Her name is Sharon Davis. Her home is the red dirt and blue seas on Yawuru-Djugun country back in the North West of Australia, the Kimberley. She is studying an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Oxford. This is her second speech, yes her second, requested by High Commission. It was given to an audience of Indigenous students as part of Aurora Indigenous Scholars Study Tour. I share her words of inspiration with you today.

Sharon Davis :

Good evening everyone. We are here this evening to welcome some of Australia’s best and brightest scholars who have been globetrotting the world as part of the Aurora Indigenous Scholars Study Tour.

What an incredible experience for you all; I congratulate you on being chosen to represent your universities, your communities and your People. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed, exhilarated, nervous, and extremely tired – all rolled into a hot-mess of meetings, events and seminars. It is a whirlwind, but a very valuable one that you will never forget.

I attended the Study Tour last year, and found it to be a turning point in what had been a busy few years being a mum and a wife, and studying for my Bachelor of Education at Notre Dame in Broome. Before I went on the trip, all I knew about these prestigious universities was what I had seen on the television or in films. It was so far removed from my reality of red dirt and blue seas on Yawuru-Djugun country back home. Had it not been for this tour, there is no way I would have dreamed I would apply for, let alone be offered places at, two of the worlds top universities. And now, here I am, this Kimberley girl, studying an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Oxford.

I just want to let you know that to doubt yourself is sort of normal. How often have you told yourself on this trip “There’s no way I could do this, there’s no way I will get accepted here, this is not for me”? When Aboriginal people have been told for years, that they are no good and will amount to nothing, I think we sometimes end up believing it. Although we say this to ourselves, it is absolutely not true. Have a look around you. In this room are dozens of brilliant Aboriginal people who smash that ridiculous idea out of the ballpark. You can do it. You will do it.

A few nights ago, we watched John Pilger’s documentary, Utopia. It showed the harsh realities of what life is like for many Aboriginal Australians. I urge everyone to seek it out and watch it. But while doing so, reflect on the diversity of Aboriginal Australia and the amazing things Indigenous people like Eddie Mabo, Marcia Langton, Roberta Sykes, Charlie Perkins, Patrick Dodson, and more recently Nova Peris – to name a few – have done and keep doing for our People. And have a look at the many Aboriginal faces in the room this evening, and remember them – for they will be doing the same. We have to make sure the conversation is not always about deficit, but also one that includes the stories of strength.

Personally, that documentary was not an eye opener, but a reinforcement of why I am here. Being an Aboriginal person, and one who has been fortunate enough to have a solid education, a roof over my head and food on my table every single night – unlike many of our People back home – I feel I have a duty, a responsibility, an actual obligation to be the best I can be here, to make life more equitable for our Mob.

For me, this amazing Oxford experience is a means to an end.

I could have stayed at home, on my Country, with my family, surrounded by sky blue sea, teaching in my classroom, eating bluebone and rice every weekend. But, if I can go home, to my Country with the Oxford stamp on my business card, and that it will mean I have a better chance at getting my foot in the door towards making real educational change for my People – that is why I do this. Not just for the experience. Not for prestige, high teas or Harry Potter dinners. I do it for our kids and our People. So, in closing, I just want to say, be proud. Work hard. Aim high. Don’t let anyone (not even yourself) make you think you can’t. Because you can. You’ve already proven it.

Good luck on the rest of the tour. I hope you enjoy Cambridge – but it will obviously not be as great as Oxford. Congratulations again and welcome to the rest of your journey.

Thank you for listening.


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I had the honour and privilege of hearing @LawladyINM #IdleNoMore speak last year in Winnipeg

Sometimes you have to be the voice where no voice is heard, even if its a whisper. Sometimes courage is that whisper to keep breathing one day at a time because sometimes that is enough. Our breath is the same breath our ancestors took when we still had our freedom and liberation, so we will again. Sometimes hope is enough for a dream to take hold, a vision, a prayer, a song.

Idle No More

I had the honour and privilege of being in the presence of this humbled, inspirational greatness of a woman.

Miigwetch