re: Aboroginal suicide

Mr. Jonathan (
Fri, 20 Oct 1995 15:39:33 +0100

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 another Oztralian in "exile", I can only echo Malcolm Cross' comments.

My suspicion is that any suggestion that aboriginal people commit suicide
whilst in custody because of severe anxiety related to lacking a concept of
"imprisonment", is a convenient and culturally imperialist piece of
overarching anthropology.

The reality behind the tragic, gruesomely disproportionate number of
aboriginal deaths in jails is shrouded in coverups, setups, and alleged
entrenched racism amongst sections of the police as well as specific
communities. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was
able to highlight concerns along these lines, without identifying specific
instances of unlawful acts.

As Malcom says:

>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.

Indeed. That any of these deaths were genuinely "suicide" has not be firmly
established. For any that were, severe oppression and gross injustice would
explain such events as parsimoniously as anything else.

Jock Norton
Royal Free Hospital