Grief-stricken community angry at lack of support following youth suicides

Posted February 05, 2017 13:24:29

Amid the grief in the north Arnhem Land community of Maningrida, where two teenagers took their lives during the Christmas holidays, there is anger that additional counselling support was not offered to the people left behind.

Head youth worker Noeletta McKenzie said the deaths were the first youth suicides affecting Maningrida for five years, and she and other community leaders had worked around the clock fearing reactionary deaths.

Ms McKenzie said two members of the federally funded National Indigenous Critical Response Project (NICRP) spent a number of days in Maningrida in January, but they had not heard from the NT Government.

"We didn't get any support from the NT Government unfortunately," Ms McKenzie said.

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"I thought we would have had more of a response on the ground [with counsellors] coming into [the] community, a phone call asking what do we need, what support do we need, but we ended up bringing in the national body."

The Northern Territory Department of Health said it would not comment on the matter as the deaths were currently before the coroner.

In a statement, the department said: "We are unable to provide any specific information beyond confirming that assistance was provided."

Ongoing need for prevention programs

Community elders in Maningrida said they were angry at the ongoing lack of prevention and engagement programs for young people.

Elder Andrew Dowadi said the time to act was now.

"They wake up when they see people die, especially young kids," he said.

"They wake up later. They see the picture - that's later.

"I want [the help] before later."

Just a week after the deaths in Maningrida, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion announced a $10-million funding boost to the NICRP.

Mr Scullion told the ABC the deaths occurred prior to his announcement, but the funding was being rolled out across the Northern Territory.

"The people who are left behind, we want to ensure that they're not in a position where they're considering self-harm," he said.

"This isn't about fixing suicide, this is about fixing one of the issues around that.

"We still need to work on the precursors - about depression, disconnection.

"We need to reconnect people with education, reconnect people with jobs and ensure that we have the right services."

Topics:suicide, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, government-and-politics, maningrida-0822

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