The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2023. Authors: Madi Day, Bronwyn Carlson, Dameyon Bonson and Terri Farrelly.
The high rates of suicide-related behaviour among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, combined with similar evidence relating to LGBTQIA+ people, suggest that there is a need to investigate the compound risk of suicide-related behaviour among people who are both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQIASB+.
LGBTQIA+ is an acronym of the terms Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual. The addition of the ‘+’ symbol serves as a reminder that there may be other terms that
should be included, including ‘nonbinary’ and ‘pansexual’. LGBTQIASB+ adds ‘SB’ to represent ‘Sistergirl’ and ‘Brotherboy’, two terms used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and which refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men who are transgender.
This report highlights gaps in existing data collection and research literature regarding the experiences of this group. It explores the risks to social, cultural and emotional wellbeing, as well as protective factors for suicide, for this group.
This overview describes a range of intersecting experiences that may increase the risk and incidence of suicidal ideation and behaviours:
• Discrimination and violence targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQIASB+ people can impact all aspects of life, including access to employment, health care, housing and
participation in people’s own communities and in broader Australian society. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIASB+ people are at a higher risk of family violence as well as assault and harassment which results in compounded and layered trauma. Life trauma, youth, disability and incarceration are also factors which intersect and may further compound the risk for this group (Phelan and Oxley 2021).
• Disconnection and exclusion from community, culture and Country are risks to social, cultural and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIASB+ people. Colonisation introduces religious ideology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, contributing to discrimination and violence towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are also LGBTQIASB+. Conversely, feeling fully accepted – both as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and as LGBTQIASB+ – and being able to fully participate in community, family and society, are protective factors against suicide.
• Both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and LGBTQIA+ people experience poorer health outcomes. Due to past and ongoing discrimination and to resulting feelings of distrust, individuals from both groups may also be hesitant to access health, mental health and other suicide prevention services.
• However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIASB+ people show significant agency and resilience in the face of violence, marginalisation and discrimination. More recently, this
has included the use of social media to form communities of care and for social and cultural nourishment, as an alternative to formal help-seeking (Farrell 2021).
This report recommends that:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIASB+ people be treated as a priority group for research, policy and programs that address the compounding impacts of racism, discrimination,
violence and trauma.
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIASB+ communities be resourced and empowered to lead this response
Caution: Some people may find the content in this report confronting or distressing. Please carefully consider your needs when reading the following information about Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention. If you are looking for help or crisis support, please contact: 13YARN (13 92 76), Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4536). QLife is a counselling and referral service for LGBTIQ+ people (1800 184 527 - 3pm to midnight daily).