Anderson blames ganja for youth suicides

ABOVE: MLA Alison Anderson at a rally this year outside Parliament during its sittings in Alice Springs. By her side is Councillor Mildred Inkamala (pink shirt) of the MacDonnell Shire Council.

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

With the funeral of a nephew who took his own life fresh in her mind, MLA Alison Anderson in last night’s Legislative Assembly debates asked for a breakdown of statistics on suicide in the Northern Territory. She wants to see what the picture is in urban, rural and remote settings, suspecting that, from her experience, young people in remote communities are more vulnerable.

The nephew buried last week in Mutitjulu was the second in Ms Anderson’s family to suicide this winter. The second young man took his life in a suburban street of  Alice Springs. He was buried in Hermannsburg on the same day as his father, who Ms Anderson says died from alcoholism.

She tells the Alice Springs News of two other young men who have recently suicided: one, only 14 years old, within the last week, another also this winter, both in remote western desert communities.

She blames ganja (marijuana), alcohol and hopelessness. Under their sway “young people are not afraid to pick up a rope and go and hang themselves”. She says there is no case “to sensationalise” but there is a case to “start talking”. To do that it’s necessary to have  “a picture of what’s happening so we can start helping”.

“All we have to offer is CDEP and welfare – we’ve got to give more.

“As parents, grandmothers, and aunties we marched with bodypaint to stop our kids from petrol sniffing. I don’t see this happening now as our kids destroy themselves with ganja.”

She pursued the issue of ganja in the Assembly: “Regarding the effects of mental illness with ganja amongst our kids, I would really like the Minister for Health to give me statistics of how many Aboriginal kids actually come into Cowdy Ward and Ward One in Alice Springs with mental illness, paranoia and all the symptoms of psychosis. How many of these cases are related to ganja? I believe we have to take these matters very seriously.”

Other factors contributing to the stresses on young people’s lives can include traumatic family disputes, says Ms Anderson. She made her remarks on suicide in the context of speaking to the Assembly about the long-running inter-family feud in Yuendumu.

She said: “It is really sad that these communities continuously go through this process of sadness and ugliness through all these disputes and, I believe, it is part of all of us to get together and start talking to these people about the harm that they bring onto themselves, their children, the whole region and the whole community, because it disrupts a child’s life at school, it disrupts a child’s life at home, because kids are just put inside cars and they go to the nearest community or they flee to places like Adelaide.

“Yes, people have a choice, they can move around. However, one day that person has to come back and if anyone is a good hater, let me tell you, Aboriginal people are good haters. They will wait for you. It does not matter how long it takes. You might go to Adelaide and live there for 10 or 20 years but you are going to come back. You might have a grandfather, a mother, a father, auntie or uncle that still resides at that community. That dispute will flare up again.

“This is the long-term education strategy we have to have in our regional towns and our communities. We have the perfect opportunity now with the shires being rolled out to the community because you can link that to the municipal services of towns like Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine. One rule applies across the whole region.”

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Beyond Blue – www.beyondblue.org.au

Reach Out – www.reachout.com.au

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2 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Paul Parker
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Yes, Syd, the system stinks! While Land Trusts, Land Councils and nameless “Traditional Owners” continue their ongoing refusals to provide valid leases to their residents, businesses, and to others wishing to be either, these communities shall continue with little except CDEP, welfare, and other government funded positions.
    Without valid leases those capable of developing and achieving things to benefit shall continue to be denied opportunity to achieve.
    Ongoing denial of opportunities likely kills more dreams than illegal substances.

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  2. Syd
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    This is just a symptom of the dysfunctional aboriginal communities.
    The social disease in these places would shock most people and the amount of tax payers’ money spent for no result and all boggles the mind.
    It is easy to blame the whites for the problems as most armchair social guilt trippers do, but you have to ask, what have these people done to try and improve their own circumstances?
    The answer is not much.
    There is large number of liaison officers, social workers, councillors, legal aid lawyers, consultants, experts and other members of the great aboriginal industry, that drive around in nice new land cruisers that spend there time setting up committees, making recommendations and exchanging strongly worded emails, but achieve nothing but waste public funds.
    If that is the best result we can get for the hundreds of millions of dollars spent then there is something very wrong with the system.
    Get rid of the ineffective administrators, dismantle the great Aboriginal industry, then send in the army or what ever it takes to get a their communities out of the stone age.

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