Musicians Fighting Indigenous Suicide

Rebecca Varidel
12th Aug 2019

Alarmingly, 40% of child deaths in Indigenous communities are by suicide, and the percentage of youth suicides that are Indigenous rose from 10% in 1991 to a staggering 80% in 2012. The likelihood that Aboriginal people will self-harm is six times greater compared to non-Aboriginal people.

While suicide is believed to have been a rare occurrence among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia in pre-colonial times, it has become increasingly prevalent over recent decades, accelerating after the 1980s. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody highlighted the disproportionate number of these deaths (over three-quarters) where there was a history of having been forcibly separated from natural families as children. The interconnected issues of cultural dislocation, personal trauma and the ongoing stresses of disadvantage, racism, alienation and exclusion were all acknowledged by the Commission as contributing to the heightened risk of mental health problems, substance misuse and suicide.

While the Australian Government, Department of Health says "Reducing suicide and suicidal behaviour among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is now a public health priority for all Australian governments" we'd like to think this is a priority for all Australians. Supporting the Concert For Life is one way you can do your bit.

Concert For Life

This World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September 2019, some of Australia’s leading musicians will come together for a very special concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Presented in association with Suicide Prevention Australia, Concert for Life was created by Roger Benedict, Chief Conductor at the Sydney Conservatorium and Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Fellowship Program, in response to the heartbreaking statistics of Indigenous peoples in Australia, particularly amongst young people, who make up 80% of all Australian youth suicides.

Roger reflects on the inspiration to bring the concert back for a second time, “the first Concert for Life in 2015 brought musicians together from three different orchestras, and that incredible generosity of spirit helped us raise vital funds and awareness for suicide prevention” Roger said, “but, when I saw the shocking statistics on Indigenous suicide, I realised the concert had to return. We can’t let this appalling situation continue, and I believe that the program we are supporting will have real benefits for Indigenous communities on country”.

Alongside performances from Gondwana’s Sydney Children’s Choir and celebrated solo pianist Simon Tedeschi, Roger will conduct musicians from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia Orchestra, who have come together to form the Orchestra for Life.

The concert will raise funds for the Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health, in an effort to prevent Indigenous suicide in some of our most vulnerable communities on-country.

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