Monday, March 04, 2013

Highest suicide rate in the world

I suppose it is very open to how statistics are interpreted, but the town of Nguiu on the northern Australian island of Bathurst Island is right up there, if not at the top of pile, in the suicide stakes and of course substance abuse. It is hardly welcome knowledge and perhaps we should just sit back, wring our hands and demand our government does something, as long as they don't spend too much of our money.

How depressing.

The Tiwi Islands are made up of  two main islands known as Melville Island and Bathurst Island and are populated by Tiwi indigenous Australians. The Tiwi are quite different to the mainland indigenous who live just a short sea trip away on mainland Australia in the Northern Territory.

With the local Tiwis speaking their own language and English as a second language, literacy was extremely low, as was numeracy, in what could be described as a quite dysfunctional society . But some good news. A highly motivated school principal, Peter McNamara, and the school board have made some very positive changes at Tiwi College.

Most of the students live far from schools and often struggled to attend, many not helped by their circumstances at home. Tiwi College was built with accommodation for students. They are ferried in Monday mornings and leave on Friday evenings. During the week they live in family group homes, with staff in parental roles, rather like a boarding school but somewhat more personal and family like. Naturally, school attendance is high with the students on site. While the students love the sport that is offered by the school, slowly but surely their school results are improving.

Is it a bit mission like as when aborigines were taken in and educated? Perhaps, but it seems to be working. If the current generation of Tiwi are better educated and able to get decent jobs, no doubt the suicide and substance abuse problems will fall away.

I must say, while I knew the Tiwi Islands were off the coast of the Northern Territory and the a disproportionate number of fine Aussie Rules footballers come from there, I knew little else. Click on the map from Monash University to see where exactly the islands are.


  1. Thank heavens for people like Peter McNamara. I guess we get so caught up in our own privileged lives that we don't think about small communities like this.. très intéressant post Andrew, merci!

    1. Grace, it was quite a heartening story.

  2. Nice to see someone is doing something to further the education of the children. I had no idea those islands were up there.

    1. It was interesting for me to learn too River.