By Colin Tatz
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Extra resources for Aboriginal Suicide Is Different: A Portrait of Life and Self-Destruction
In 1973, Ivor Jones, in his study of psychiatric disorders among Kimberley and desert people, reported that there was ‘no incidence of suicide or homosexuality among full blood tribal Aborigines’. In 1975, Burvill reported higher Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal rates of parasuicide in Perth, but he had strong reservations about the ‘validity of Aboriginal 19 Aboriginal Suicide is Different rates’. In the late 1980s, Harry Eastwell confirmed the ‘low risk of suicide among the Yolgnu of the Northern Territory’ (1988, 338).
The most widely reported cases were those of Lloyd Boney, David Gundy and Eddie Murray in New South Wales; Kingsley Dixon in South Australia; John Pat and Robert Walker in Western Australia; and Muriel Binks in Queensland. As the Commission progressed, it published its findings on individual cases and then presented its final five-volume report (1991). Before these publications, many had believed that there was either an element of ‘assistance’ in some of these deaths and/or that the suicides were a result of factors inherent in the small spaces of incarceration.
John Howard, when leader of the federal Liberal opposition in 1989, declared that, in the name of the just society, there can be no special favours, no positive discrimination for any one group, especially not for Aborigines. He pledged repeal of existing land rights legislation, because no other group has such special benefits. The Liberal and National parties also proclaimed, in the 1990s, that none should be advantaged over another, expressing the philosophy that we are One Australia. 19 The ideological implication of the ‘level playing field’ is the withdrawal, or elimination, of all special pleaders, so creating equality of treatment for individuals.