Catholic Bernard Tipiloura, the Northern Territory’s Senior Australian of the Year nominee, has spent years trying to create change on the Tiwi Islands after it once recorded the highest suicide rate in the world. Source: SBS News.
The Tiwi Islands, home to about 2500 people across the two islands of Melville and Bathurst, lie about 80 kilometres north of Darwin. Most – 86.5 per cent – of the people who live there identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
They have survived a dark, complex history – one which made national headlines after one of the highest suicide rates in the world was recorded in 2002 (261.6 per 100 000).
It’s the heroic efforts of Tiwi Island leaders who volunteered to reduce suicide and self-harm on the islands that are being celebrated this year with one of the elders involved, Bernard Tipiloura, awarded the NT Senior Australian of the Year.
At 83 years of age, the Wulirangkuwu clan man is one of the oldest people on the Tiwi Islands, where he has lived most of his life.
Most Tiwi Islanders are Catholic, but Bernard Tipiloura is devout. He speaks with great pride of his brother Theodore Tipiloura, who was a leader in the community and deacon in the Church.
It was through his connection to the Bathurst Island Mission that Tipiloura became one of the first teachers from the Tiwi Islands almost 70 years ago.
He remains firm friends with OLSH Sister Anne Gardiner, who was celebrated with the Senior Australian of the Year Award in 2017 for her contributions to the island through education and the development of the Patakijiyali Museum. Tipiloura was first her student and then her colleague.
The Australian of the Year Awards will be announced on 25 January in Canberra.
National FREE 24/7 Crisis Services: • Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au • MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 www.mensline.org.au • Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 22 4636