Image: Mark Spinks talking to Health officials about the rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Between the 29th of June and the 30th of July EntreHub will be a running a series highlighting people and organisations working in the field of suicide prevention. In Australia more than 2,500 people die as a result of suicide each year while in the United States the number is in excess of 40,000. Here at EntreHub we believe that these stories and these people matter. Please help us spread the word.
Mark Spinks is an unassuming man who hails from Bourke in country New South Wales where he was bought up by his Aboriginal grandmother during a tumultuous time in Aboriginal affairs. Now based in the inner city suburbs of Redfern Glebe, Spinks has become a champion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders when it comes to suicide prevention.
The rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is significantly higher than the mainstream Australian population and if the current trend is anything to go by there are a lot of concerned people including the founder of Babana Aboriginal in Redfern, Mark Spinks. Spinks founded Babana ten years ago after he realised that there were few people involved in community engagement or speaking directly with the people and understanding their needs “Babana was very much a grassroots initiative and a lot of that came from my experience growing up in Bourke with my grandmother where, as an Aboriginal person, I experienced a lot of hate.” “That hate taught me that I should not be a hater in reverse and when I had the chance to help make a difference in the lives of people I would.” Says Spinks.
For a decade Babana has been at the forefront of community engagement in the Redfern and Sydney community with more than 350 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders placed into employment or training, more than 6,000 job and assistance packages handed out, more than 20,000 people marching over the years to recognise the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in defence of Australia and more than 10,000 people attending the organisations various community days.
But, it’s the issue of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that really shakes this unshakable man:
“We’ve got this all wrong. How can it be that in today’s society Indigenous and Aboriginal me, women and children feature largely in the suicide data?” “How is it that we loom large in the data for people incarcerated or on the unemployment lines?” “A lot of those who take their own lives among our people at the end of the day don’t feel is if they are participants in this Australian journey and that’s why we have to do more to ensure they have hope, have access to opportunity and feel as if they can aspire to great things.” Says Spinks
Image: The latest 2014 suicide data from Australia
According to the most recent suicide data Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were more than twice as likely to take their lives than the mainstream Australian population. “143 of our own people are no longer with us (referring to the most recent suicide data), no longer able to reach their full potential.” He says.
Babana Aboriginal has invested a lot of time and effort to do what they can on a small budget when it comes to suicide prevention:
“For the last two years we have run a community suicide prevention day. The last one we had more than 150 people attend and its very different. Instead of having a whole lot of organsiations come and talk to our people it was about our people running the day for our people – of facilitating different workshops and connecting with each other, showcasing and celebrating our culture. Any service providers that wanted to attend were welcomed but we asked them to listen…listen to what was being said and build programs around what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders need as opposed to having other people think this is what we need.” He says
Image: Babana's 2015 suicide prevention awareness day held in Sydney
Babana is once again running a suicide prevention awareness day this September. We asked Mark about some of the things he would tell policy developers, service providers and Governments when it comes to getting things right:
Help organisations like ours to build our own capacity instead of sending organisations from the outside in – help us to build our workforce capacity.
Listen, listen, listen. Stop this empathy business and actually open your ears. Too many organisations want to get the photo for the Facebook page to be seen to be doing something instead of actually doing something. Posting a photo of yourself on Facebook may make you feel good but what about an outcome?
You can find out more about Babana and Marks story HERE
If you or someone you love is in crisis or needs support right now, please callLifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
Young people aged 5 to 25 years can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
You can also visit communitiesmatter.com.au for information and resources on how to get help and give help.
You can’t go past a news paper, radio show or television news story these days without being flooded by all things Bitcoin or Crypto Currency. Some say it’s the new world of money while others suggest its all just a passing fad. Whatever your position or preference of...
This week I announced a suite of measures for the Government to consider when it comes to small and medium sized business and what we can all be doing as we start to look at emerging from the COVID19 lockdown. The reality is that a good number of small business owners,...
As someone who has been working in suicide prevention for some years now i know that often having a simple conversation can make all of the difference when a loved one is doing it tough. COVID 19 and the lock down tends to amplify how we feel when we are isolation or a...
We know that mob out there are uncertain as to what the COVID-19 / Corona Virus means for them – this can cause us all to panic and some in community more so that others. Panic attacks can compound the situation so we gather some information about what you can do now t...
Don’t forget our elders can suffer in silence too: suicide prevention
Many people think that mental health and suicide are not topics that impact our elders but they could not be more wrong. The data tells us there continues to be an emerging trend when it comes to peop...