THE death of a nine-year-old boy in central Queensland has sparked a new national debate on the suicide crisis affecting young indigenous Australians.
The Australian reports today that police have confirmed an investigation is under way into the "non-suspicious death'' last Wednesday in the mining services town of Emerald.
The primary school student's body was discovered behind his home by a teenage cousin just a few weeks after an uncle of the boys is understood to have killed himself.
Police would not comment on whether the death was being investigated as a suicide.
A family member said police were investigating the possibility that the boy's death was an accident.
A report out last year found the rate of suicide among young indigenous men in Australia was the highest in the world.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the five years from 2011 to 2015, intentional self-harm was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons between 15 and 34 years of age.
It was the second leading cause for those 35-44 years of age.
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The median age at death for suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons over this period was 28.4 years, compared with 45.1 years in the non-Indigenous population.
There is a particularly high age-specific suicide rates among younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, with rates between two and four times those of non-Indigenous Australians in age groups between 15 and 44.
Both Tasmania and Queensland recorded an increase in suicide rates despite national rates remaining study.
Mental health issues and an increasing use of alcohol and drugs have been blamed for the surge.
A decline in employment opportunities, together with a lack of engagement in education and training, is also believed to be a factor.
Experts say young people in regional areas face far greater inequality in their access to education and employment than those in urban areas or cities.