Anxiety over the COVID-19 pandemic could spark a rise in suicides at remote Aboriginal communities, a minister fears.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has voiced his concern about the impact of coronavirus on Indigenous Australians and their communities.
‘I do worry that we will see an increase (in suicides) because there are many multiple factors that will impact on individuals,’ Mr Wyatt told The West Australian.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt (pictured) has warned that anxiety surrounding the coronavirus could lead to a spike in suicides in remote Indigenous communities
Mr Wyatt hoped a recent focus on community engagement and family relationships had a positive impact on Aboriginal communities (children playing basketball in the Northern Territory’s remote Arnhem Land pictured)
The minister warned uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and how long it could take Australia to recover could directly impact the suicide rate.
‘The world has changed as we all knew it,’ he explained.
Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Australia recorded 3,046 suicide deaths in 2018 and 169 of these were Indigenous people.
Mr Wyatt said he feared an increase in suicides but hoped that recent community engagement had been beneficial to Indigenous people’s mental health.
‘Families have been spending more time together during COVID, children spending more time with fathers and mothers, so hopefully that will have a positive impact,’ he said.
Western Australian State Coroner Ros Fogliani delivered an ‘urgent’ call for action on Indigenous suicide rates last year.
She investigated the deaths of 13 Indigenous people in the Kimberley region in Western Australia, including five children aged 10 to 13, in less than four years.
Australia recorded 3,046 suicide deaths in 2018 and 169 of these were Indigenous people (a child at the Alice Springs Women’s Shelter in the Northern Territory pictured)
Ms Fogliani said prevention services were not working and labelled the situation ‘dire’.
There have been at least another six suicides in the Kimberley since Ms Fogliani’s report, leading to criticism of the state government for not acting fast enough.
Mr Wyatt, the member for Hasluck in Perth’s east, said he was focused on addressing these issues in his Voice to Parliament.
He hoped to finalise the Voice to Parliament, which advocates for Indigenous issues in policy making, by the end of the year.
It is understood Mr Wyatt’s Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Group has already delivered a plan.
It recommends choosing 11 to 20 Aboriginal representatives from across the country to advise the government on key Indigenous policies.
Mr Wyatt has also said he is looking for a tourism strategy that will secure more Indigenous jobs, as well as get tourism businesses ready for a widespread opening.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Wyatt for comment.
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Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Aboriginal men playing AFL on a community in the Northern Territory pictured)