The Inequalities Surrounding Australian Indigenous Health
Inequality in health is one of the most controversial topics within Australian Health Care. Inequality in relation to health is defined as being “differences in health status or in the distribution of health determinants between different population groups” (World Health Organization, 2012). Within Australia inequality affects a wide range of population groups; however Indigenous Australians are most widely affected therefore this paper will focus on how inequality has impacted their health. Research shows that Australia’s Indigenous people suffer from a multitude of social and economic inequalities such as inadequate access to nutritious food and health care, being socially and economically ostracized, cultural barriers, discrimination, inadequate shelter and sanitation, and insufficient education (Commonwealth Grants Commission 2001, p. 58-60; Australian Human Rights Commission 2007), which all contribute to poor health physically, emotionally and spiritually. To gain a better understanding of the ill treatment of this population it is important to review Australian history and the affects on the individual and the community. Throughout history Indigenous Australians have suffered great inequality at the hands of white settlers. In 1788 the British colonialists arrived claiming the continent as their own without respect or consideration for its inhabitants. The inequality suffered by the Indigenous due to this lack of respect was brutal and executed with contempt, such as large scale massacres, assimilation of Indigenous children (known as the stolen generation), the banishment of entire communities, and a loss of land impacting on the hunter gatherer lifestyle etc. (Australian Indigenous Health Info Net, 2011). Prior to the arrival of the British, “Indigenous Australians generally enjoyed better health … than most people living in Europe” (Australian Indigenous Health Info Net, 2011), this could be directly due to the nomadic lifestyle and relatively small clans. According to the Australian Indigenous Health Info Net after the arrival of the British, Indigenous tribes were exposed to a number of diseases such as pertussis, small pox, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, measles, scarlet fever and Influenza. Having had no previous exposure to such afflictions Indigenous Australians endured a significant loss of life and their social structure was severely disrupted (2011). Throughout history inaccessibility of conventional health services and insufficient distribution of health frameworks in some Indigenous communities, has inevitably created a disadvantage to be as healthy as non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2007). Although society has advanced and is now bound by more equitable laws, large numbers of Indigenous Australians as individuals and as communities continue to suffer lower socioeconomic circumstances and health inequalities. This history of inequality, discrimination and overall mistreatment has not only had a prolific impact on the health and socioeconomic status of Indigenous individuals but it has contributed to an increase in detrimental social conditions and a lack of faith in their Non-Indigenous counterparts, the Government and the Australian Health Care System. Isaacs, Pyett, Oakley-Brown, Gruis, and Waples-Crowe (2010) found that “A general lack of trust in mainstream services by the Indigenous community and previous experiences of racism and discrimination can draw individuals away from these services” (p. 78). VicHealth determines that the disadvantages of financial hardship has a considerable residual influence on health inequalities (2005, p. 1). Low income and financial hardship has commonly been linked with poor housing and hygiene. Disadvantaged Indigenous individuals are more than often sharing their dwellings and overcrowding is not unlikely. Overcrowding generally means that there is an unavoidable spread...
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