Narrogin suicide crisis needs ‘critical and urgent action’: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 14 Oct 2008

International aid agency Oxfam is calling on both Federal and State Governments to take ‘critical and urgent action’ so that further lives are not lost in the township of Narrogin, Western Australia.
Narrogin, two hours south-east of Perth, with a population of just over 4200, has seen eight suicides and four attempted suicides by men aged between 20 and 31 in the past six months. Six of the men who died were Aboriginal, as were all of the men who attempted suicide.
Oxfam has written to Federal and State Ministers to urge them to fund the culturally acceptable health services that were lacking until July, when Oxfam stepped in to fund Aboriginal psychologist Darrell Henry and two Aboriginal support counsellors.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma is convening a community meeting in Narrogin today (Wednesday 15 October) at 10am, aimed at finding solutions to the town’s suicide crisis.
Oxfam Australia director of policy James Ensor said the suicides of six of the 128 Aboriginal men living in Narrogin was not just a tragedy, but an emergency that needed to be addressed urgently.
“It requires both an immediate emergency response and long-term, sustained programs to support the community in providing the services necessary to address the deep traumas being experienced in the town,” Mr Ensor said.
“As an international development agency, Oxfam Australia does not usually provide essential services in our own country. But in this instance, we felt we had an overriding responsibility to support the community’s request for assistance.”
However, he said it was clear that there must now be long-term, sustained, effective government support for the Narrogin community to address this crisis.
“The solution must ideally be managed and run by the local Aboriginal community, placing senior Aboriginal men and women at the centre of all therapeutic responses,” Mr Ensor said.
Mr Ensor said whilst the Federal Government had provided funds for a social worker, what the community had asked for was more funding for the Aboriginal community model funded by Oxfam. The Oxfam funding will run out in January.
For further information or interviews:
Laurelle Keough, Oxfam Australia media coordinator – Advocacy & Campaigns, 0409 960 100.