Culture provides meaning and purpose to life and a sense of wellbeing. Identifying, preserving and sharing culture gives indigenous people a sense of pride and hope of a positive future. All these elements facilitate healing.
In the past thirty years in Australia, there has been a massive and unprecedented increase in Indigenous youth self-harm and suicide. Youth suicide has gone from being an extremely rare phenomenon – a word for suicide had to be invented in Arnhem Land in the 1980s – to being the highest in the world. Suicide is rife amongst Indigenous people in other colonised nations.
Research by Michael Chandler and Chris Lalonde in over 200 indigenous communities in Canada has showed that Indigenous communities that have control over local institutions and are grounded in a collective sense of history and culture have the low rates of suicide or no suicides at all, while indigenous communities with no cultural connectedness had suicide rates over 800 times the national average.
The way forward is clear: Connect to culture. Indigenous people must own and control the healing process. Empower Indigenous communities.
“… The speakers in this Report are calling for urgent understanding and action to improve Indigenous wellbeing in Australia. What we know from decades of experience is that bringing in outsiders does not lead to long term solutions - these can only come from within communities, who need to own and control the healing process.
“Themes such as community empowerment, the strengthening of cultural identity, maintenance of Indigenous languages, culturally appropriate employment, bi-cultural education and returning to country; these human rights are what our people have been advocating for decades and for good reason...” Mick Gooda