Pathways to avert youth suicide and detention

Pathways to avert youth suicide and detention

Shalom Christian College is active in engaging Indigenous youth from regional and remote Indigenous communities into its progressive educational programs.

These programs are not only designed to provide indigenous youth from across the country with a strong foundation in which to realise their hopes and aspirations for further education and a career, but to act as an essential diversion for seriously at risk youth in danger of self-harm, youth detention, suicide and depression.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15–19 years is 5.9 times higher than those for non-Indigenous females, while for males the rate is 4.4 times higher than for non-Indigenous males.

Aboriginal people commit suicide, on average, at a far younger age than non-Aboriginal Australians, with reports of prepubescent children, some as young as eight committing suicide.

These heartrending statistics drive us to encourage and engage remote Indigenous students, many who have come from a situation of anguish to discover their God-given talents through Shalom’s programs.

From bank trainees, trainee air hostesses, lawyers and health workers, to name a few, many students previously coping with despair have found their life’s calling and a purpose for their life.

A fitting example was a young student, Zhane Saylor from Darnley Island, who was awarded the 2011 Australian Vocational Student Prize and Prime Minister’s award for Skills Excellence in School.

Creating such change is never easy; it takes a lot of encouragement, patience, love, listening and time to make lasting changes in the lives of young people who are directionless.

Transforming lives lies at the heart of what we do, as we know God does not make junk. We work endlessly to ensure Aboriginal and Islander youth are presented with a future filled with hope, happiness, health and above all a self-belief that they have within them, God’s power to make changes to their lives and that of their community.

Shalom Christian College is but one of those many lights on the hill that has created lasting and positive change for youth at serious risk.

The recent ABC 7:30 Report showing the tragic rate of youth suicide in the community of Mowanjum just south east of Derby in the Kimberley region of Western Australia highlights that more than ever targeted support, such as those programs run by Shalom Christian College, is provided for such students if we as a nation are to arrest this tragedy.

Positive change is being made and we are heartened at the transformation many of our students are making. The road is long and, while we have made solid progress, we have a long way to go.

I, like many Indigenous Australians, encourage key decision makers tasked with arresting the rates of Indigenous detention and suicide to stop, listen and see the light on the hill and see where true and lasting change is being made for the betterment of those who suffer the worst socio-economic outcomes in our nation.

For, ultimately, we are all Australians and the future rests on our shoulders to create a nation that prioritises the preservation of precious life by averting suicide and creating God-given pathways for all.

The Rev. Shayne Blackman

You can view the 7:30 Report program by clicking here.  A warning to Aboriginal viewers that this report contains references to people who have died.

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