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One in Ten Young Aboriginal Men Rate Their Happiness at Zero

That's compared to one in 100 for non-Indigenous males, as published in a new report by Mission Australia.

Image via Flickr user Colin Campbell

A new report released by Mission Australia says addressing the disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people needs to be a national priority. Surveying 18,727 Australian young people aged between 15 and 19 years old—1,162 who identified as Indigenous—the report found the happiness levels of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were critically low, compared to those of other young Australians.


Mission Australia says while the majority of young people—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—indicated that their overall outlook on life was positive, one in 10 Indigenous males rated their "happiness with life" at zero percent. That's compared with one in 100 non-Indigenous young people.

Many of the problems experienced by Indigenous young people, according to the survey, happen in the home. Of those surveyed, 30 percent of Indigenous young people had spent time away from home in the past three years because they "felt they couldn't go back." For non-Indigenous young people this number was only 12 percent.

The report doesn't address Indigenous youth suicide rates, it does reflect the fact that youth suicide rates among Indigenous young people are about four times higher than those for non-Indigenous people of the same age. For young Aboriginal people aged 15 to 35 years, suicide is the leading cause of death. The issue broke through into the public consciousness earlier this year, when a 10-year-old Indigenous girl suicided in remote Western Australia.

Dameyon Bonson is the founder and CEO of Black Rainbow, Australia's peak suicide prevention organisation for Indigenous LGBTI people, their families, and their communities. Speaking to VICE, he pointed out many recent events reported in the media would prove mentally harmful to young Aboriginal people—including the Don Dale footage and Bill Leak's racist cartoon, published by The Australian.


"When they see themselves or their mates being shackled, hooded, and tear gassed in prison, and then they see their fathers ridiculed in a cartoon in a paper, why would they be happy?" Bonson said. "We need to speak out against racism—all kinds of it—all of us."

Mission Australia's report provided several suggestions to address disadvantages faced by Indigenous young people, including investing in empowering youth policies and programs, developing meaningful partnerships between Indigenous communities and organisations, and "understanding that health, education, housing, safety and inclusiveness outcomes cannot improve without the appreciation of the inter-relationships between them and concerted efforts to overcome underlying disadvantage."

It should be noted that many Indigenous young people are feeling optimistic about life, and positive versus negative feelings about the future did not vary much between non-Indigenous and Indigenous respondents.

Of the non-Indigenous youths surveyed, 47.3 percent said they felt "positive" about the future. Compare this with 41.1 percent of Indigenous young people. And in fact, more Indigenous respondents (18.1 percent) said they felt "very positive" about the future than non-Indigenous respondents (14.8 percent).

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