Cultural project has sights on Indigenous suicide

The Noongar Boodja Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation is hoping their hard work will reduce suicide rates among indigenous youth.
The Noongar Boodja Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation is hoping their hard work will reduce suicide rates among indigenous youth.

Noongar Boodja Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation has launched a series of projects to reintroduce the South West to Noongar culture with the goal of decreasing suicide rates among the Indigenous community.

The centre works to analyse and catalogue the language which centre manager and linguist Sue Hanson said could be in danger of becoming extinct if work isn’t done quickly to reverse it.

“Each language is like a library, it contains information about culture and intellect and if you lose a language it’s like burning down a library,” she said.

“There is a direct link between indigenous youth, culture and suicide rates.”

Among the Indigenous population aged 18 and over levels of psychological stress were reported to be 2.7 times higher than the non-Indigenous community.

The period between 2003 and 2012 showed the Indigenous community accessed mental health services at 1.7 times the rate of others.

A 2009 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed Western Australia as the leading state for Indigenous suicide with 35.8 per 100,000 Aboriginal community members.

Ms Hanson said these statistics could be attributed to cultural friction. “There is a theory called the theory of interculture which describes three cultural areas, non-Indigenous, Indigenous and the intercultural space between where the two interact,” she said. “When we interact in our community we do so in the intercultural space, when we go home we enter the non-Indigenous area, and for Aboriginals they enter the Indigenous area.

“The problem for a lot of Indigenous youth is – because of their loss of culture – they remain in the intercultural space permanently and that’s where issues surrounding drug use, crime and suicide begin to arise.” 

Ms Hanson hopes to address issues facing the community with their work to create a Noongar calendar and the first Noongar dictionary, still five years away.

Support is available for anyone who needs help through Lifeline on 131 114 or through beyondblue 1300 22 46 36.