Children As Young As 10 Are Killing Themselves In Western Australia And The Number Is Growing

"Our community is full of despair and hopelessness."

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A Kimberley Aboriginal leader has slammed the government, claiming Western Australia communities have insufficient resources to stem a rising tide of youth suicides.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

The statement follows the death of a 10-year-old Aboriginal girl who killed herself at the weekend. Anthony Watson, chair of the Kimberley's peak Indigenous body the Kimberley Land Council, told BuzzFeed News the suicide was shocking but not surprising.

"It has been getting worse for the past decade, a lot of suicides, and we have been trying to address these issues as a community, but it’s very hard and it's a huge concern for us in the Kimberley," he said

Watson said remote communities and local grassroots organisations have been working hard to prevent suicides but are failing because of a lack of ongoing funding. He has challenged the government to "get real" and "sit with" communities and invest in their solutions.

"It’s disheartening that our cries as black people often fall on deaf ears," he said. "Our organisations on the ground don’t get the resources that they need to combat the suicides and they try their best with what they have. They watch as money gets poured into Closing the Gap, but the money never reaches grassroots."

The 10-year-old girl lived at the remote community of Looma in west Kimberley. She is just the latest in a string of Indigenous suicides in the Kimberley since the start of the year. One expert says the number is as high as 20.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

The girl's death prompted the federal government to send suicide prevention researcher Gerry Georgatos to Looma to provide crisis support to the community and families affected by the suicide.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report, released this week, found that Indigenous suicide rates are increasing. In 2014, it was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15 and 35.

Indigenous children aged 14 and under are almost 10 times more likely to kill themselves than their non-Indigenous peers.

Georgatos wrote in The Stringer this week that those numbers, as grim as they are, are conservative, "The actual suicide toll and its rates are understated because of under-reporting issues".

"Some of us estimate that the suicide rate is as high as one in 10 to one in 12 deaths," Georgatos wrote. "From 2009 to 2013, the suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was officially one in 19 deaths."

"If this happened in a white community or to a white child there would be much more outrage," said Watson. "There would be inquiries and inquests, major attention. Why do Aboriginal people have to wait for a tragedy like this to get people listening?"

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

The Western Australian government has committed $26 million to suicide prevention through the One Life initiative, with the aim of curbing the rate by 2020.

The state government said it is planning an inquest into several suicides in the Kimberley and Pilbara area.

Watson said the biggest issue right now is to ensure that the community near Looma is supported.

"I fear the copycat suicides that could come after this," he said. "We need to be vigilant and keep an eye on it.

"We [Aboriginal people] have been keeping an eye on it for years but all too often it’s just us that are concerned."

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website.

Allan Clarke is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at allan.clarke@buzzfeed.com.

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