Skip to main content

Aboriginal Suicide is Different: A portrait of life and self-destruction


Aboriginal Suicide is Different is a study of youth who have, or feel they have, no purpose in life — or who may be seeking freedom in death. It is a portrait of life, and of self-destruction, by young Australian Aboriginal men and women. To comprehend this relatively recent phenomenon which occurs more outside than inside custody, one has to appreciate Australian Aboriginal history — the effects of which contribute more to an understanding of suicide today than to psychological or medical theories about the victim. Australian Aboriginal youth at risk are suffering more from social than from mental disorder.

Every Australian’s birthright includes the expectation of a healthy and possibly happy life of some longevity, assisted by all the services which a civilised society can make possible. But this is not yet within the Australian Aboriginal (or Maori, Pacific Islander, Canadian and American Indian) grasp. That so many young Australian Aboriginal people prefer death to life implies a rejection of what the broader Australian society have on offer. It reflects our failure, as a nation, to provide sufficient incentives for young Aborigines to remain alive.

Adopting an historical and anthropological approach to suicide in Australia and New Zealand, Aboriginal Suicide is Different documents rates of suicide that may well be the world’s worst. It tries to glimpse the soul of the suicide rather than merely his or her contribution to our national statistics.

Reviews and endorsements

Aboriginal Suicide is the second edition of a book first published in 2001, distinguished by a new introduction reviewing some of the key concepts used in the analysis and recording parallels found with the situation among the Inuit. Tatz argues that the rapid increase in and current prevalence of suicide among young Indigenous Australian cannot be explained through a medical model of causation.

– Robert Layton, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 13, 743–783, 2007