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Member for Kimberley Josie Farrer presents the ‘Baton of Life’ to State Parliament.
Camera IconMember for Kimberley Josie Farrer presents the ‘Baton of Life’ to State Parliament. Credit: WA Labor.

The Kimberley has one of the highest suicide rates in Australia and the world. We asked the candidates what they would do to address this issue.

Labor: Josie Farrer

Suicide is an incredibly complex issue. Not only do we have to provide assistance to people who are contemplating suicide but we have to work harder on why people get to that point. In a lot of communities with high rates of suicide, young people express a sense of helplessness.

I believe that developing a community-based approach is the answer.

We need to ensure our kids are getting an education and that in schools there are evidence-based mental health programs.

We will also ensure maximum opportunities for apprenticeships and other work for young people are gained by supporting local businesses through WA Government contracts.This will go a long way to giving kids a sense of hope. In addition, WA Labor will allocate $1.2 million over four years to implement findings of the Improving the Juvenile Justice System Framework Report with the primary focus on improving the wellbeing of young people.

Liberals: Warren Greatorex

I am not going to purport to be an expert on the problem.

What I can say is that I have personally experienced the devastating effects of suicide in our community I live with it and know there is no easy answer.

What I do believe is required is a multi-faceted approach involving specialised expert mobile task units to bring together stakeholders in each community to make sure any initiatives implemented are done so with consultation, support, education and follow-through.

I am committed to seeing that these task forces are implemented to address factors identified as contributing to suicide, including but not limited to, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, isolation, and a lack of cultural identity.

Nationals: Rob Houston

The suicide rate in the Kimberley should be a source of shame for all Australians.

This is a fundamental failure of public policy and political parties of all persuasions should come together to take urgent action.

Many recommendations made in the past have failed to be implemented and yet we continue to have inquiry after inquiry.

This devalues those who have poured their hearts and souls into this issue through previous investigations such as the elders’ report into preventing indigenous self-harm and youth suicide, the inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody, and Alistair Hope’s coroner’s report.

We need to take action on this and work with the communities and families to come up with culturally appropriate and culturally effective solutions that engage the community. I do not pretend to have the answers on this issue but if I am elected I will work hard to ensure the people who do have the answers are heard.

The Greens: Liz Vaughan

A large amount of money over many years has been spent on suicide prevention programs, some of which are more useful than others, but they have manifestly failed to make a real difference.

What is clear is that a new approach must be sought to tackle increasing rates of suicide, particularly among Aboriginal youth. Many communities are experiencing uncertainty about their culture and about their future, and this permeates through to the youngest and most vulnerable.

We need to be looking at new ways to engage our young people by creating opportunities, especially in remote areas, and investing in programs to improve quality of life — the Yiriman Project is one such example.

One Nation: Keith Wright

The disastrous situation regarding suicide in the Kimberley is a problem that every corner of our community needs to work together to dramatically change.

Government and the community must stop the “band-aid” approach, which is not working.

What is the root cause? Many theories have been put forward but to date we have made no inroads to the situation. From my professional background as a community pharmacist, I know the increasing presence of illicit drugs, such as ice, together with the abuse of prescription medicines, is having a cumulative effect, especially when combined with alcohol

From the time I am elected, I will work closely with my community, talk and listen, encourage and comfort, and make certain that Governments of any persuasion will allocate sufficient funds to engage qualified and dedicated staff, people that go beyond the call of duty, to overcome this heart-rending situation.

Independent: Kai Jones

The key to any social issue is to objectively identify and address all factors relating to the issue.

Suicide is preventable and tragic, the effects are felt by family and throughout the community for many years.

To address suicide we must ask ourselves what happened that people felt they only had one option and, as a community, what we can do to prevent it.

Sadly, the Kimberley has some of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Our indigenous brothers and sisters between five and 15 years old are most at risk.

We must identify and address the causal factors through respectful community and professional engagement, and enact mechanisms removing any stigma and shame people might feel which can result in such tragic outcomes.

Independent: Graham Chapman

The Kimberley has one of the highest suicide rates in Australia and the world. We need to push the cashless welfare card and look at other ways to reduce access to alcohol and drugs, provide better support to families and children in the form of education, increasing awareness, providing escape and safety for victims — not just for the Kimberley, but for our country.

Information and support centres need to be available to everyone with the right resources and funding. This will help our community and reassure people that you are not alone.

We need to reduce domestic violence, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, alcohol and drug abuse.

Please seek help if something is not right and talk to the people around you.

Flux: Ryan Albrey

I don’t think it is too much to say that the disproportionate rate at which our young indigenous people are committing suicide is an ongoing sign of our systemic failure to close the gap and achieve true reconciliation in this country.

But nobody should make a political football out of this issue. This is too important for the blame game.

Flux is not interested in laying blame at the feet of one minister or another. Solutions are urgently needed and yet the current system of Government has proved completely unable to cope.

How about we empower young people in the Kimberley to speak and then the rest of us do a whole lot less speaking and a whole lot more listening?

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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