Suicide Prevention

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:09 :59 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Conservation and the Environment, representing the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, questions regarding suicide prevention programs for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Members of the South Australian LGBTIQ community have a significantly elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and taking their own life. Figures from the National LGBTI Health Alliance, published in the 2013 LGBTI People mental health and suicide briefing paper, paint a harrowing picture of the prevalence of these issues in our nation. It also highlights that the high rate of suicidal thoughts and suicide is due to a multitude of reasons that are often not due to an individual's sexuality, sex or gender identity but because of discrimination and exclusion.

The report contains a number of concerning statistics, and I will mention just a few. Members of the LGBTIQ community have the highest suicide rates of any population group in Australia. Twenty per cent of transsexual Australians and 15.7 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians report having suicide thoughts. Up to 50 per cent of transsexual people have attempted suicide at least once in their life. Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rates of suicide than heterosexual Australians. For same-sex attracted youth, the rate is six times higher. The average age of a first suicide attempt in the LGBTIQ community is just 16 years of age, often because they have 'come out'.

The Andrews government in Victoria, carrying on the work already started under the previous Coalition government in that state, is spending almost $5 million on suicide prevention in the LGBTIQ community alone, and I saw some of that work firsthand when I visited that state a few years ago. However, in South Australia, whilst we have a state suicide prevention strategy, targeted government campaigns and programs for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or questioning are extremely limited.

I should, however, point out that last Friday, at the Mental Health Coalition's Festival of Now event in Rundle Park, I did witness some of the very good work done, with limited resources, by the Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia in their program in the gay community in this state. My questions are:

1.Will the minister advise what specifically targeted LGBTIQ suicide prevention programs or campaigns the state government currently operates?

2.Will the minister commit to looking into the work the current Victorian government is doing and consider implementing similar initiatives here in South Australia?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 15:13 :30 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important questions and also for pointing out that the increased prevalence of suicidal thoughts and depression—and I can add mental illness and substance abuse—in the LGBTIQ community in this state is not due to some innate predisposition due to sexuality, which some people would like to think it is: it is actually due to discrimination—community-led discrimination, personal-led discrimination and exclusion from society.

It is an important area of work that we need to do further work on always. It is also important that we recognise as well that the current debate we are having at a federal level in terms of equal access to marriage—gay marriage, as it is sometimes called, but I prefer to call it marriage because it is marriage that we all want to have access to—needs to be held with some respect, because there is the potential, as has been pointed out by, I think, the Western Australia Premier, that by engaging in a debate on a plebiscite, for example, we may be giving permission to the darker side of our community coming out and engaging in that debate and putting more undue pressure on, and exposing to more discrimination, younger members of our community who would be questioning their sexuality.

It is an important point, I think, that the honourable member is asking in his question—whether we will look at the Victorian good work in this area and what targeted prevention programs there are currently in the South Australian agenda. I undertake to take those questions to the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse in another place and seek a response on the member's behalf.