Saturday, 24 March 2012

Addressing and Redressing the Social Factors of Aboriginal Suicide

In no sense do I discuss these factors as a way of blaming the victim, or explaining the problems as biologically, culturally or socially inherent in their Aboriginality. The danger, is that the material presented here will be misused by those of ill-will. There is, however, a sense in which only Aborigines can remedy many of
these contributing factors.

For much of this century, Aborigines have been administered. They have been moved, cajoled, coerced, disciplined, and their behaviour proscribed or prescribed. The eras of treating Aborigines solely as a ‘welfare problem’ have ended, with some exceptions. There is now an era of (relative) freedom and free will. Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson talks of the poison of welfare and its ‘parasitic’ legacy. However, a serious problem remains: that many of the legacies of what was done to Aborigines by others can now only be addressed by the victims of those actions. Many Aborigines still tend to project both blame, and redress, on to others. Importantly in this suicide context, it must be said that only Aborigines can address and redress some of these suggested causal factors. Only they can handle the alcohol issue, the parenting problems, and above all, the endemic sexual assault issue. Only they can ameliorate their internal enmities. Only they can find mentors for the young, and the older, within their own society.

Some matters require outside assistance:
•initially, the Ann Morrice literacy skills program, which Aboriginal teachers can adopt after short training;
•conflict resolution skills, to confront aggressive and destructive behaviour;
•grief counselling, to be used internally after appropriate training;
•parenting skills, to be taught by Aborigines and non-Aborigines;
•life goal aspirations, based on American and New Zealand pilot projects, using Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ‘mentors’.

Perhaps will to meaning can flow from reductions in existential distress. They need the help of people of goodwill, whom Frankl calls ‘pilots’. I agree with his profound view that none of this is ‘mental disease’. I disagree only in his choice of the medical practitioner as the quintessential pilot.

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