Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 2

“Culture has become life-giving medicine for our people, closing the wounds of the past and standing us strong to face the future.

Our Elders have been fundamental in this process. They are our wisdom keepers. They have seen the changes, so dramatically incurred in their lifetime. They are the vital bridge between the modern world and Aboriginal culture. They are the leaders of our communities, to whom we continue to rely on for guidance and counseling.

There is no more urgent time to sit down and listen to our Elders than now. For any solution to be effective, their guidance must form the foundation of how Governments and service providers work with Aboriginal people.

After so many years of top-down policymaking and funding programs that have not achieved the changes intended on the ground, they are crying out to be heard and to be involved in healing their communities and giving young Indigenous people their inheritance of cultural knowledge, identity and strength…” Professor Pat Dudgeon, University of Western Australia

“We need to become stronger and build up our community. Give us more power so we can stay on our own land. Support us to take our people out onto country. All we ask is for you to help us, so we can change things. We are losing our own countrymen. We are losing our lives.

Stop thinking blackfella doesn’t know anything about healing. We are living with these problems. We are the best informed to deal with them. We tried to become a Balanda (white people), but no, we are black.

We are living black and this is how we have to stay. We have to pass this onto our children. Don’t use us. If we lose our culture we are lost, without it we are finished as a people.” Andrew Dowadi, Maningrida, Northern Territory

“Getting someone to reconnect with who they truly are is the basis for building self-belief, self-confidence and self-respect. The Elders are the most important part of this healing process. Without their knowledge we cannot reconnect the kids to who they truly are.

We cannot give them that link to identity, to culture. The Elders are the ones who hold on to the culture and the Lore. They are the most important part of the healing process for our people…’

‘Our program is a community-based, grassroots developed and culturally appropriate. Some bureaucracies struggle to understand how this fits into their boxes. We need to bridge that misunderstanding. It’s the same vision just a different language.

Once they can understand the importance of doing this properly through community and through culturally appropriate programs then we can start to move forward together.

Many resources are allocated to address the issues confronted by Indigenous people across this country. The reality is these resources create a whole industry that rides on our suffering and fails to achieve the outcomes required to end our pain.

Until those resources reach the grass roots, the situation is never going to get better. We need ensure accountability for the resources allocated to address the issues we face, because right now they are failing. Right now we are being blamed for that failure when we have no control over the process.” David Cole, Central Desert, Northern Territory

Read a summary of The Elders Report on Sharing Culture or read the full report.

> Gerry Georgatos on Suicide Amongst Indigenous People of Australia

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