An elder who set up a suicide prevention network to reduce the alarming suicide rate in her Northern Territory community has been honoured with a major human rights award.
Gayili Yunupingu was awarded the Eddie Mabo Social Justice Award by Bonita Mabo, wife of the late Indigenous land rights pioneer Eddie Mabo, in a ceremony in Canberra this month.
The lifetime achievement award was one of three National Indigenous Human Rights Awards presented.
Both Ms Yunupingu and Mrs Mabo were moved to tears at the event.
“The job is not finished,” Ms Yunupingu said.
ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs commended Ms Yunupingu and Wesley Mission’s Suicide Prevention work.
Ms Yunupingu said her community entered into the work of suicide intervention and prevention in 2007 out of necessity.
At the time completed and attempted suicides were high relative to the size of the community, particularly among young Aboriginal men.
At one stage the Gunyangara community had the highest per capita suicide rate in the world.
The Gunyangara and Galupa communities began to have open discussions on country to explore ways in which the community could deal with suicide in a way that was in line with Yolngu protocols.
A night patrol was also established to monitor people at risk in the community.
By 2014 there had been no completed suicides in the East Arnhem community, according to Nhulunbuy Police.