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Emily Woods

First analysis reveals Vic LGBTQI suicides

Disclosing LGBTQI identity to police or health bodies can help improve data gathering. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

More than 200 LGBTQI Victorians have died by suicide in the past decade but the true number is likely to be higher, the state coroner has revealed for the first time.

The Coroners Court of Victoria on Friday released a report showing there were 208 deaths by suicide in people who identify as LGBTQI between 2012 and 2021.

The highest frequency of suicides occurred in 2014 when there were 34 deaths and the lowest in 2017 when there were 10.

However, these numbers are likely an undercount due to issues collecting data, Victorian coroner Judge John Cain said in the report.

Issues included difficulty in obtaining information about a deceased person's LGBTQI identity, as it might not be documented during coronial investigations, he said.

Police reports might omit information on a person's sexual or gender identity because officers deem it irrelevant, or they might use vague language that doesn't explicitly communicate their identity.

Witnesses might not wish to disclose to police or the court whether a person identified as LGBTQI to protect their privacy or due to fear or stigma.

Further, speaking to police can be a deeply traumatic process for those with negative historical interactions with the force, the report said.

The court is hoping to address many of these issues by releasing the data.

"By consulting on and documenting the reasons for shortcomings in LGBTQI suicide data, the court hopes to open dialogue with relevant organisations to improve the accuracy and completeness of this data," Judge Cain said.

"In the future, it is hoped that a more reliable dataset can provide a better understanding of the intersections between LGBTQI identity and other elements of a person's lived experience and identity."

Younger Victorians were over-represented in the data, with 56.7 per cent of the suicides occurring in LGBTQI people aged under 34.

Victorian LGBTIQ Commissioner Todd Fernando said this was likely due to issues gathering data on older people's identities.

"We believe that the reason why young people are over-represented is because many older LGBTQI people are generally not out in this current generation," he told AAP.

"Or next of kin, who are witnesses within the Coroners Court, don't disclose their loved one's sexuality or gender identity because either they didn't know themselves or they're wanting to minimise or don't think that it's relevant to the coroner's investigation."

Mr Fernando said work was under way to understand why people don't want to disclose their LGBTIQ+ identity to police or health bodies to help improve data gathering.

"The need to understand why it's important to ask the question of gender identity or sexuality is something that we're working on with different agencies and community groups," he said.

"This report really allows us to understand the limitations of the current data collection method, on accurate datasets, and allows us to then think about ways in which we can reform future data collection methods to ensure that that visibility is there."

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