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Indigenous suicide prevention in the Digital Age

By Judith Crispin

Aboriginal Australians are dying. Needlessly.

We are losing three Aboriginal people a week to suicide, from a population that is just over half a million, and an Indigenous person is four times more likely to take their own life than a non-Indigenous person.

I am working with the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert to create an Indigenous suicide prevention app.

The app will be called ‘Kurdiji’ (shield, or to protect). It takes its name from a body of Warlpiri knowledge normally transmitted as part of the Kurdiji initiation ceremonies for young people. The Kurdiji ideas have been successfully used by the Warlpiri to increase resilience and prevent suicide.

When a young man committed suicide in 2005 in the remote community of Lajamanu, local Warlpiri elders said ‘Enough is enough’. With help from friends, Lajamanu established the Milpirri festival to spread the traditional ideas of ‘Kurdiji’ among their young people. They began to fight for every single young Indigenous life in their community. Since 2005 there hasn’t been a single suicide in Lajamanu.

Now those same elders want to bring Kurdiji into the digital age with a community created app based on stories, ceremonies and law. They want to fight for all Aboriginal lives, not just those in remote or traditional communities. They have partnered with an expert team including technologists, photographers and a leading clinical psychologist from The Black Dog Institute.

As a community led project, it’s tricky to find operational costs so we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe. We’re trying to find ways now to spread the word about our campaign. We’ve got a great video with Indigenous actor Uncle Jack Charles and we hope that you can share our video and let your networks know about the campaign. You can see the film on our GoFundMe page at and on the Kurdiji web page.

Aboriginal suicide rates are at the level of an epidemic, and a genuinely community-led technological approach hasn’t been tried before – so we’re in unknown territory to some degree. Your help in spreading the word about our campaign will make an enormous difference.


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  1. Pingback: Media Presence – Kurdiji 1.0

  2. Roswell

    I’d be happy to donate.

  3. Sir Scotchmistery

    I too, and will circulate in my networks.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Indigenous suicide is a tragedy and a national disgrace. I don’t really understand apps so can’t make an informed comment in that regard but it is our duty as a human collective to protect and nurture our children. We are failing badly.

    We must facilitate self-determination, helping those who understand and live with the problems guide us on what is needed. Children need hope for the future. They need to feel safe. They need a sense of self-worth and of their own potential. They need to feel valued.

    Anything that can help achieve that should be encouraged.

  5. jim

    By Andy Coghlan

    Right-wing governments or the LNP may sap some people’s will to live and result in more suicides, conclude studies in Britain and Australia.

    The researchers speculate that losers are more likely to kill themselves in the individualistic, “winner-takes-all” societies favoured by right wing governments, because they are left to fend for themselves. Wide disparities in wealth also sharpen any sense of hopelessness, the researchers argue.

    “If you fail under that ideology, it would accentuate your feelings of failure,” says Mary Shaw, whose team at the University of Bristol analysed suicide trends in England and Wales over the past century.

    Left wing governments tend to be more “inclusive” and community based, she says, decreasing the isolation felt by people down on their luck. Shaw’s team calculates that over the past century, 35,000 extra suicides occurred when the Tories were in power.

    “That’s equivalent to one suicide for every day of the 20th Century, or two for every day that the Conservatives ruled,” the team write in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

    Britain’s Conservative Party declined to comment on the findings.

    Double trouble
    Shaw and her colleagues found that on average, suicide rates were 17 per cent higher when the Conservatives were in power, compared to the annual average of 103 suicides per million population when opposition parties held office.

    Richard Taylor and his team in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney found similar trends over the past century in New South Wales. When Right-wing governments were in power, men were 17 per cent more likely and women 40 per cent more likely to commit suicide.

    They report that rates were highest whenever Right wing governments held power both at federal and state levels.

  6. Kyran

    How can it be that a civilisation, a culture, a people, can exist for tens of thousands of years, yet be decimated in a few short centuries? Not only exist, but survive and thrive in one of the most hostile environments on the planet?
    The introduction of diseases, substances and outright murder weren’t the greatest threat to this culture. IMO, it is the wanton disregard of their culture that is the most egregious of the violations.
    Less than 2% of our population identify as our First People.
    Prior to us getting here (ironically, on boats), they had a legal system, a health system, a trading system. A culture that enshrined tradition by encouraging learning, observing, respecting and evolving.
    Are these not the most basic tenets of civilisation, as we know it?
    There was an interesting article on the Katherine Hospital.
    “I want to go back to bush medicine,” he says. “It’s better and works fast because we learned it from old people.”

    It was based on a Background Briefing article;

    How can it be that our First People had it right, and we got it so wrong? How can it be that our First People are over represented in juvenile suicide? Juvenile detention? Juvenile poor health outcomes? Juvenile poor education outcomes?
    How can it be that we continuously judge them by our standards, without regard for their achievements?
    From most of my reading, our First People belong to country.
    From most of my reading, we want to own it.
    A culture clash.
    When we deny the children the identity of their culture, demean their culture, defund their support services, what expectation should we have?
    My bad. I’m white. Just like that Brandis guy. He has been so persecuted for being white, whilst trying to manipulate native title.
    The friends I have had that have committed suicide over my journey (which is decades) lost hope. The most basic of hope. That tomorrow will not, and cannot, be better than today.
    How the f*ck can a child be so desperate?
    My bad. They’re black.
    Thank you Ms Crispin and commenters. Apologies for the profanity. Take care.

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