re: Aboriginal suicide studies

Cross MC (
Fri, 20 Oct 1995 12:21:23 +0100 (BST)

On 18 Oct 1995, A. J. Zolten wrote:

> A request from my collegues down under.
> I heard on our Natl Public Radio program this morning that there is
> a clear problem with Aboriginal Australians who commit suicide after
> an incarceration and that it is related to not having a concept of
> "imprisonment".
> A.J. Zolten
> Univ. of Central Arkansas
> PO Box 4915
> Conway, AR, 72035

As one who has recently departed from those golden shores of Oz, just a
brief comment. The findings of the Royal Commission Report On
Aborigional Deaths In Custody point fairly strongly to the very large
number of custodial deaths occurring under suspicious circumstances.

The report lays *blame* pretty much on those charged with
the responsiblity of custodial "supervision" and the isolating and
inflexible structure of the custodial system in general (eg. enforced
seperation from family).

The aborigional population is grossly over-represented in the judicial
system (and have been since the invaders took to locking them up instead
of shooting or poisoning them) with individuals often incacerated for
seemingly senseless reasons (whilst employed as a residential
psychologist in a juvenile detention centre - I met Roy, a 14 year old
aborigional young man who was committed to detention for 6 months for
receiving stolen goods - ie: his friend gave him 40 cents he had taken
from the ashtray of a car).

Perhaps it is this "making sense of senselessness" or the inescapable
evidence of inequality, which leads to the experience of extreme anxiety
or a crisis in construing, where suicide *is* the cause of death.

Malcolm C. Cross
City University
London EC1V OHB UK

P.S. Roy was encouraged to appeal his sentence and was discharged from
court after serving 10 days (first possible court date). It's not complete