Suicide inquiry needs to act urgently to prevent further tragedy

08 September 2020 By Tony Zhang
Suicide inquiry

With the coronial findings handed down on the shocking suicides at Whittlesea, lawyers are urging the Victorian government to act quickly to prevent further calamities.

Whittlesea Community Legal Service is urging the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kym Peake, to act to prevent further suicides among mothers in the South Asian community in Melbourne’s north, in the wake of coroner’s findings.

The coronial inquiries concerned the suicide deaths of Ms WX, Ms TP, Ms YN and Ms MH in the South Asian community in the Whittlesea region in Melbourne’s north to which the Legal Service, through its parent body, Whittlesea Community Connections, is a party. 

The inquiries focused on a cluster of six suicides of women, of whom all but one were mothers and were from a similar ethnic background. Some of the women had suffered family violence before their deaths in 2018 and 2019.

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“With despair and suicide, the antidote is simple. It’s human touch. Our service will not accept a single further suicide, of a single further mother, without the immediate offer of help,” Whittlesea Community Legal Service principal solicitor Chris Howse said.

“At stake is the chance that our work to get them out of the house, to get them together, to speak about rights, will fail without the help of the [secretary], which the [coroner] recommends she provide, in every one of the findings, into each of these four deaths.

It was revealed in all four of coronial findings including a recommendation by the coroner sought in submissions by the Legal Service, that the secretary act to prevent further deaths. 

The Whittlesea Community Legal Service said they are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss solutions that may save lives of mothers, vulnerable to the same forces that contributed to these suicides. 

“Those forces,” Mr Howse emphasised, “in some cases, include family violence.

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“It’s about mothers. It’s about despair. It’s about kids left behind and the need for hope. With the help of the [secretary], we can bring help to mums to resist the despair that brought on these suicides, so families in Whittlesea avoid tragedy and irreparable loss.

“At stake is the possibility that our initiatives will fail without the assistance that the court, in formal findings, recommends you provide.”

Seven suspected suicides with disturbing similarities had left lawyers and police questioning what mysterious circumstances were surrounding those in the Indian community of Melbourne’s City of Whittlesea. 

Evidence revealed some of the women had experienced family violence prior to their deaths – five of which were in 2018 and two in 2019.

Suicide inquiry needs to act urgently to prevent further tragedy
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