Indigenous leaders from throughout the nation have converged on Alice Springs to address the “epidemic” levels of suicide in remote communities.
They are calling on the Federal Government to address the crisis, with suicide rates in the Kimberley region doubling in the past five years.
More than 370 delegates are attending the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference which ends tomorrow.
The conference will hear from a number of high-profile indigenous campaigners to discuss how to lower the rates, which are far greater than for non-indigenous Australians.
Nationally, suicide rates are 11 deaths for every 100,000 people but that more than doubles for indigenous people.
There is no such data when it comes to indigenous LGBTQI people. The rates – believed to be even higher again – have never been measured.
Dameyon Bonson, the founder of Black Rainbow, an advocacy group for LGBTQI indigenous youth, told Guardian Australia that people working in the sector were forced to look on comparative data from Canada’s indigenous people and on intersecting demographics.
“But homelessness and suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is high, and homelessness and suicide among LGBTQI is high.
“If you’re both, the risk isn’t going to reduce,” he said. “We’re not a separate high-risk group. We’re at high risk within the Aboriginal community.”
Mr Bonson’s presentation at the conference will examine the presence of heterocentrism and the exclusion of LGBTQI indigenous people in communities and decision making processes in the health sector.
“There are three key groups,” he said. “Them mob (white people), us mob (indigenous people), and us other mob (indigenous LGBTQI people) … and we all need self-determination.”
For more than three years, $17.8 million in funds earmarked for indigenous suicide prevention has remained unspent by the Federal Government.
The funding was tied to a national indigenous suicide prevention plan devised by Labor under the Gillard government, but never implemented.
Incoming Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion quarantined the funds upon the change of government in 2013, and the funds are now attached to a national suicide prevention strategy to be rolled out from August.