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Dodson sheds tears on indigenous suicide

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Jennifer Rajca

An emotional Pat Dodson has broken down has he recalled a late-night phone call from a family member telling him a young person had taken their own life.

"There's nothing worse ... than to get a call in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning from a relation, and most of us experience this as Aboriginal people, to tell you that someone has died, someone very young has taken their life," the indigenous Labor senator told the launch of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project report in Canberra on Thursday.

"As I know happened in Fitzroy, with a dear 12-year-old boy, whose parents found him hanging from a tree in the yard," he went on, with tears in his eyes.

Whatever caused him to do that, Senator Dodson does not know.

"But this (report) is the work of people like yourselves about people who are in pain, who are in loneliness, who are dejected."

Senator Dodson thanked Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion for his spirit of bipartisanship on the issue of indigenous suicide.

Senator Scullion thanked colleagues from the coalition, Labor and the Greens for coming together to launch the report, commissioned a year and a half ago.

"What you see is a new way of doing business," he told reporters.

The research came about when people kept asking him what he was going to do about the high rates of indigenous suicide and where he was going to invest money.

"I said 'well I don't know, because we don't know what works and what we don't know what doesn't work'," he said.

He described the report as remarkable, saying the government will adopt all the recommendations which relate to the terms of reference.

The minister doesn't think more funding is required, but people need to know what their role and responsibilities are.

Health Minister Sussan Ley, who recently travelled to Broome for a round-table and will go back before the end of the year, said the burden of suicide falls unfortunately and unfairly on indigenous people.

"We know what we need to do, we just have to work out how to do it," she said.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the causes of the "epidemic" are deep and complex and he welcomed all parties working together.

Recommendations include making sure all indigenous suicide prevention activities feature community-specific and community-led programs and that governments support the training and retention of indigenous people as mental health workers.

Indigenous people identifying as LGBTI should also be represented on all government and mental health advisory forums.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.

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