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 www.kurdijiproject.com 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.