From dealing with 90% alcohol and ganja the small drug organisation DASA in Alice Springs is overwhelmed by a substance far more insidious, taking up half of its case load now. From being mostly used by whites it is also spreading right through Aboriginal society, in town and country. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. Photo courtesy Alice Springs police.
UPDATE October 8: Comment by psychologist PHIL WALCOTT
I hosted a lunch with the Chronic Preventative Health worker from Alice Springs. The man she principally sought and tried to get to the lunch was intoxicated by 11am. I told her this was the way it had been for the past 18 months with this forty-five year old, talented, bi-lingual remote community man who'd had a stroke at that time. RUSSELL GUY sees the grog mayhem up close in a "dry" community not far from Alice. PHOTO: The sign nailed to the tree says: "Let there be light in the darkness."
Suicide is a new and growing problem for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. The only detailed published study, looking at data from 1981 to 2002, shows that there was only one suicide by an Indigenous man in the NT in 1981, in contrast to seven that year by non-Indigenous men. In the 22 year period the first suicide by an Indigenous woman was not until 1991, while between one and three by non-Indigenous women had been recorded in every year since 1984 and four were recorded that year.
The study by Mary-Anne Measey, Shu Qin Li and Robert Parker was published in 2005 by the NT Department of Health and Community Services. It reports that the rate of suicide amongst men in the NT, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, increased during the 1990s and early 2000s, while the Australian rate remained stable. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Drawing by Sue McLeod for Suicide Stories: Feeling unloved and surrounded by grog abuse and violence.
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. PICTURE 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. KIERAN FINNANE reports.