WARNING: This release contains sensitive content.
Sheree Lowe is a Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman with a strong connection to South West Victoria, she has lived most her life on Wadawurrung Country in Ballarat. Sheree Lowe is the SEWB Unit Executive Director and my special guest this morning to discuss Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by the Coroners Court of Victoria around 8.30am.
Sheree has been advocating within the Aboriginal Community in Victoria for over 20 years. She previously worked as a management consultant at PwC on projects related to organisation transformation through an Aboriginal lens and cultural safety program design.
At VACCHO, Sheree is leading the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing.
The following article contains references to those who have returned to the Dreaming. This article also contains suicide references.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Balit Durn Durn Centre have expressed deep sadness at the findings of new report, Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by the Coroners Court of Victoria which reveals an “alarmingly high” suicide rate among Indigenous people.
In a statement VACCHO passed on their deepest and most sincere condolences to families and Communities dealing with the devastating grief and loss of loved ones and acknowledged the Aboriginal Engagement Unit at the Coroners Court of Victoria for bringing this crisis to light through the report.
“Of particular concern in the Coroners Court Of Victoria report are the stressors that were identified among the suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. Breakdowns in interpersonal relationships, experiences of family violence, experiences of abuse, and substance abuse left untreated were all noted as stressors and factors that significantly contributed to losses of life,” the Organisation noted.
“Alarmingly, over one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who passed by suicide reported childhood exposure to family violence, and nearly 50% had experienced separation from parents.”
In Victoria, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rates are three times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.
VACCHO noted the report revealed more than 80 per cent of people who passed by suicide had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety and/or mood disorders, “suggesting if services were responsive and able to meet the needs of Aboriginal people, these deaths could have been prevented”.“These stressors highlight the failings of fragmented mental health and child protection systems that do not provide people with culturally safe, holistic health and wellbeing services that they need,” VACCHO said.
VACCHO’s Balit Durn Durn Centre has recently been resourced to create an Aboriginal led Suicide Response Strategy, which will be co-designed with Community members, including those with lived and living experience of suicide.
The aim of the strategy is to ensure Aboriginal voices are central to the design of a response that will provide proper care and support to those experiencing mental health concerns and prevent suicides that continue to devastate our communities.
Balit Durn Durn Centre for Excellence in Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said that for too long, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria have “fallen through the cracks of a fragmented and culturally unsafe mental health system”.
“Every life tragically lost to suicide has devastating impacts on families - and entire Communities,” she said.
“The Centre will focus on strengthening mental health and the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) service system by providing Aboriginal leadership, empowerment and collaboration.”
Balit Durn Durn means strong brain, mind, intellect and sense of self in Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung language.
VACCHO advocates for a system that is adequately resourced and funded to provide the wraparound care required to prevent such devasting tragedies from occurring. Embedding culture and healing into service design is essential to improve outcomes and opportunities for our communities.
NOTE: Your social and emotional safety is important. If this article has brought up any concerns or issues for you, please have a yarn with Yarnin Safe’n’Strong (1800 959 563) or 13YARN (13 32 16).