Racism major obstacle to Indigenous wellbeing

anna-zierschThe goal of closing the gap in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is unlikely to be met unless racism is tackled, according to new Flinders University research.

The finding, from a major new report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in urban areas, confirms a direct link between racism and poor health outcomes.

In Our Own Backyard: Urban health inequities and Aboriginal experiences of neighbourhood life, social capital and racism is the result of a three-year study conducted by researchers at Flinders University’s Southgate Institute with the support of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

One of the project’s chief investigators, Dr Anna Ziersch said 93 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who took part in the study reported experiencing racism.

“We found that experiencing regular racism was associated with poor health,” Dr Ziersch said.

“But racism also is also experienced when trying to meet basic needs such as renting a house or going to the supermarket,” she said.

Dr Ziersch said addressing racism is likely to have better health outcomes than a single-minded focus on lifestyle behaviours.

“Compared to the general population, twice as many Aboriginal people did not drink and most exercised regularly – and yet they had worse physical and mental health.”

The report concludes that closing the gap in a generation will require significant changes to the way Australian society is currently organised.

“The Federal Government’s aspiration to close the gap will not be achieved unless Australians from all walks of life are aware that racism is unacceptable,” Dr Ziersch said.

The Flinders University researchers have identified the following as other key policy issues:

  • Indigenous cultures should be promoted and celebrated.
  • Changing behaviours is only likely to be successful when people live in environments that are supportive of healthy lifestyles and lifestyle choices.
  • If Aboriginal health is to improve relative to other Australians then so must the way in which Aboriginal people compare on the social determinants of health.

•    A holistic approach to improving mental health is essential

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0 thoughts on “Racism major obstacle to Indigenous wellbeing

  1. I am well and truly onside with all that you have written about Aboriginal health and want all powers that can to keep working on improving this. What takes my eye are the statements:”Indigenous cultures should be promoted and celebrated” and “A holistic approach to mental health is essential”

    Heartily agree with both, problem is how to achieve these noble goals. Lasting and comprehensive change will come for indigenous Aussies when the prejudices against indigenous Aussies are eliminated in Australian society. I would not like to experience the indignities that I have seen indigenous Aussies put up with, the first of which was the 1788 invasion (I’m a senior citizen but wasn’t actually there in 1788). On a day by day basis I have seen plenty of slights that would make even a tough being cringe and feel inadequate. What does this do for the mental health of anybody?

    As someone who has initiated change in organisations as part of a former life I learned that unless forces resistive to that change are eliminated the chances of bringing about that change in a lasting sense are almost nil. I perceive widespread negativity towards indigenous Aussies as a major resistive force to comprehensive and lasting changes in areas like indigenous health. Ironically the negativities often emerge from the mouths of persons who have had little or no contact with indigenous Aussies. Their views are formed in part from the media.

    I am trying to initiate a conversation about negative attitudes to indigenous Aussies on a blog with the URL: bennethon.blogger.com but with little success so far. I’ll keep plugging away but need some followers to ignite this conversation Australia wide, especially with the 2013 referendum not far off.

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