Why Are So Many Indigenous People Killing Themselves?
This is the luckiest country in the world. For some.
This week, in a far-north western corner of the luckiest country, a little black girl couldn’t see a future here, so she killed herself.
Like so many other Indigenous people, I remember looking at my skin when I was younger and wishing that I wasn’t Aboriginal. Wondering why I was born cursed with this brown skin, the visual representation of everything that made me so different from the other kids I went to school with. I wondered what it would have been like to be born without and I wondered what future there was for me, with this brown skin.
Of course, now I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have been born with this skin and this blood running through my veins. The blood of my ancestors, the people who’ve been walking on this earth for the past 60,000 years. It’s the blood of survival and perseverance and unrelenting will not to give up, despite all of the things that have been done to us. And thank God I do, because I’ve needed all of the strength I can muster because it’s not easy being an Aboriginal woman.
For some people, it’s unimaginable that a 10-year-old girl could be so sad that she can’t imagine a future. That she sees the world as a better place without herself in it. For so many Aboriginal people it’s hard to imagine a harmonious world full of joy with them in it.
I don’t know what this little girl’s life was like, but I know a lot of other little Aboriginal girls and I was one once, too.
We hear so much about statistics: Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence, we make up 30 percent of the prison population, we live 10 years less than non-Indigenous people. But let’s, for a minute, move away from the numbers and imagine what this means for a young Aboriginal girl’s life.
It means you see the person you love most in the world, your protector, your Mum, being brutalised, humiliated and denigrated every day. It means then she can’t summon the will to look after you because she’s been traumatised to the point where she can’t even look after herself properly, let alone anyone else. It means the men in your life that you love, your brothers, uncles and cousins, are locked up in jail. It means everyone you know and love gets sick and dies before the white people you see in town. It means you’re isolated. It’s not so hard for me to imagine that a little girl could feel that way because I see it all the time. I see how hard Indigenous people’s lives are every single day.
Let’s look at it from another perspective. Let’s say this little girl doesn’t decide to kill herself and by the grace of God she’s blessed with enough good fortune and enough will to transcend the situation she found herself born into and is able to participate in society in the way that everyone wants her to. What happens when she gets there?
She’s one of the lucky ones who gets to endure the endless questions about why her culture and people are so fucked — despite all of the “good” everyone does for them. She’s so blessed she gets to field questions about whether or not she’s a half-caste and if she’s sure she’s not French or Greek or Lebanese or anything that could explain away her Indigeneity and therefore the reason for her ability to move in the non-Indigenous world. So all of this little girl’s hard work and good fortune, all of the will to fight and survive amounts to this.
I don’t want to point the finger of blame, but we must beg the question: why are so many Indigenous people killing themselves? Why are so many Indigenous people unable to see a future for themselves? We have to ask what sort of future it is that we’re providing.
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