R U OK? Day


May I first commend you (Sam Duluk MP), as Acting Speaker, for moving this motion and indicate my overwhelming support for it. I would also like to acknowledge the Hon. John Dawkins in another place, whom the Premier has appointed as his own advocate to investigate and deal with suicide prevention by way of consultation and reporting back. This is a very important issue for the government. It is a very important matter that has taken a long time—in fact, centuries—to come out from behind cover and be dealt with.


I would like to place on the record my continued work to try to ensure that the code of ethics in respect of journalists ought to be modernised to enable the publication of stories in relation to suicide. Historically, their code requires the non-publication of these stories for the obvious reason of respecting families who have lost someone in these circumstances, but as long as we conceal this it will not become a mainstream health issue. Unlike having a broken leg, where it is pretty obvious you cannot walk, a broken mind and emotional distress are not easily visible, and that is why it is important that we continue to have these roles.

It is also important that our responsible media outlets have an opportunity to discuss this issue. We did not talk about road accidents, but we now have a tally and programs. It is important that we deal with this sensibly to hopefully have a greater reduction because we are now at a stage where the known suicides in South Australia are double the road accident deaths, which get all the attention, and it is time that changed.

Of course, we have come a long way: 150 years ago, attempted suicide was a criminal offence. In fact, capital punishment was the sentence; that is how absurd the situation was. It was seen obviously as a breach of God's law in relation to taking one's life and that was unacceptable and unconscionable. We had churches that, until recent times, would not even allow the burial of a person who had committed suicide within the church's cemetery, so we need to grow up and understand the significance of what is happening here. From very young people across to the mature-aged, we are losing our friends, colleagues and family when it is entirely preventable. Of course, we have to act in relation to that.

I can recall circumstances throughout my life—and I am sure every member here would share this—where suicides occurred. Sometimes they were hushed up. As a very young child, I used to walk past a neighbouring property only to find when I was about six that the mother who lived in that household went to the dam, left a kerosene lit on the dam bank and drowned herself. The men in the district, including my dad, had to go down and trawl the dam to recover her body. I did not understand as a six year old what had happened to her. She was just a nice lady who used to give me a bunch of violets for my mother when it was raining, so you do not always understand.

I can remember being asked to do a Geoffrey Robertson equivalent of a panel in relation to youth suicide about 30 years ago. My late husband and I got a phone call in the middle of the night to say that his 16-year-old nephew had hanged himself in Balaklava. These things come and blindside us. Last year, my own brother, a farmer, shot himself. It is something the family has to deal with, but we should not have to treat these things as something that is secret, a moral failing or something that is untreatable. It is the responsibility of all of us to do something. I thank you, Mr Acting Speaker, for bringing this matter to the attention of the house. I urge all members to support this motion and to actively recognise the significance of what we need to do here and, very obviously, I think, when the signs are there, ask: 'Are you okay?'