The Europeans had invaded Australia in 1788 and the Aboriginal people were the most affected and oppressed. They were forced to live in an environment that was unnatural to their own existence, where they lived for thousands of years. The Europeans brought with them various diseases that killed many individuals (King, Brough and Knox 2014). The European settlers declared the continent to be “no one’s land”, but the island continent was inhabited by 400 different nations. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Aboriginal people mostly occupied the northern coasts of Sydney. They lived near the foreshores of the harbour area and carried out hunting and fishing in the nearby water bodies and the forests. The resources of the area were so abundant that they did not have to travel from their own regions. They were self-sufficient and lived harmoniously with other tribal groups, carrying out various forms of trade. They developed a complex and rich social life, carrying out various rituals. This in turn contributed to their language, spirituality, customs and the law. All these were connected to their connection with the land. “Kanyini” refers to the principle of connectedness through responsibility and caring, which defines the lifestyle of the Aboriginal people (Dudgeon and Walker 2015).
The Europeans and most Australians do not understand is that the lifestyle of the Aboriginal people was based on their kinship with their natural environment. They used their skill and wisdom to carry out acts such as killing animals for food or building houses. These activities were based on their spirituality and ritual and maintained a balance with the environment (Veal, Darcy and Lynch 2015). The European population depleted their food sources and destroyed the environment. Moreover, various diseases like small pox, which were unknown to the Aboriginal population destroyed half of their population. Many of them were displaced from their own land. The Aboriginal people became dependant on the white population for food and shelter. The alcohol trades carried out by the European population also affected their social customs and their way of life.
This essay carries out a deconstruction of the question “Why don’t aboriginals take an interest in health and wellbeing?” It is highly unfair to ask such a question after learning about the history and the consequences faced by the Aboriginal people in all aspects of life.
The Stolen Generation
The Aboriginal people are shown as savages and those who cannot make right decisions even in the case of parenting. The “Stolen Generation” refers to the time when the children were taken away from their parents and abused by the new families. The children were often treated as servants. Due to the cultural genocide and mass child abuse, there were and still are significant rates of mental disorders in children and adults alike. The White population perpetrated them in the name of saving them from their own cultures and rituals (Aldrich 2017). The Aboriginal people are dying from various illnesses like diabetes, heart diseases, kidney failure and mental illnesses. But they are not given access to obtain medical support from hospitals. Thus, it is meaningless to ask such a question that why they do not take interest in their health and well-being.
The Flora and Fauna act/White Privilege
The “Flora and Fauna act” classified the Aboriginal people as animals. They were not considered as Australian citizens and were not allowed to vote. They were considered a part of the wildlife. They were not encouraged to vote and as a result, few of them participated in elections. The “White Privilege” benefited the white population on all aspects of social, economical and political backgrounds (Gair et al. 2015). Sydney was the most inhospitable and alien city for the Aboriginal people because of the white privilege. The Aboriginal people suffered various forms of racism, which was significantly high and this gave rise to various forms of mental illnesses among the youth as well as the adults. Racism faced by the Aboriginal people gave rise to various outcomes in association with their social as well as emotional well-being. These outcomes included depression, anxiety, poor overall mental condition and health. Suicide risks were also high among the Aboriginal population (Kelaher, Ferdinand and Paradies 2014).
Coming back to the question, it is unacceptable when such questions are made about the Aboriginal people. How can someone not know their history and what consequences they faced? Moreover, how can someone make such wrong terminologies to address the Aboriginal people? They are not to be termed as “Aboriginals” as it can describe any individuals living in any country at the earliest times. It is not appropriate to refer to the Aboriginal people as aboriginals. There are groups in Canada and Taiwan who refer themselves as aboriginals (Lee and Chang 2017; Jung et al. 2017).
Social determinants of health
The World Health Organization has reported that health inequalities faced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the largest in the entire World. With the colonization, the Aboriginal people suffered widespread massacre and were disposed from their land. With the introduction of new diseases by the European settlers, only 10% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remained. The inequality and the poverty they face are a reflection of the previous treatments faced by them as reported in history. Systematic discrimination is responsible for the health inequalities faced by them (Markwick et al. 2014).
Colonization created several barriers to improving the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These barriers are on many levels like the interactions between physicians and patients, delivery of health or medical services and the wider economic as well as the political stage. The constant debate about the inadequacy and dysfunction of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples association with public health practices disconnects them from their own culture and identities. Moreover, due to the biomedical models, public health programs are directed towards lifestyle issues. This in turn reinforces and causes perpetuation of racism and prejudice, which are a key determinant leading to the poor health of the Aboriginal people. Health education disempowers and reinstates the feeling of low self esteem among the Aboriginal population. The health services ignores the social, cultural and emotional well-being of the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people suffer from various forms of distress that affect their health. These are the socio-economic determinants, psychosocial factors like food insecurity, very high psychological distress and financial stress. There are also high numbers of them, who did not get help from the community services and resources (Ralph and Ryan 2017).
Thus, it can be concluded that the Aboriginal people suffer from various disadvantages like poor income and employment rates, they have trust issues, which stems from the racism faced by them. These trust issues prevents them from utilizing health services, thereby resulting in discrimination in educations and employment, which eventually leads to psychological distress.
Aldrich, H., 2017. The stolen generations group action: An alternative model to redress a traumatic past. Precedent (Sydney, NSW), (141), p.22.
Dudgeon, P. and Walker, R., 2015. Decolonising Australian psychology: Discourses, strategies, and practice. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1), pp.276-297.
Gair, S., Miles, D., Savage, D. and Zuchowski, I., 2015. Racism unmasked: The experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in social work field placements. Australian Social Work, 68(1), pp.32-48.
Jung, J.J., Pinto, R., Zarychanski, R., Cook, D.J., Jouvet, P., Marshall, J.C., Kumar, A., Long, J., Rodin, R., Fowler, R.A. and Canadian Critical Care Trials Group H1N1 Collaborative, 2017. 2009–2010 Influenza A (H1N1)-related critical illness among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. PloS one, 12(10), p.e0184013.
Kelaher, M.A., Ferdinand, A.S. and Paradies, Y., 2014. Experiencing racism in health care: the mental health impacts for Victorian Aboriginal communities. The Medical journal of Australia, 201(1), pp.44-47.
King, J.A., Brough, M. and Knox, M., 2014. Negotiating disability and colonisation: the lived experience of Indigenous Australians with a disability. Disability & Society, 29(5), pp.738-750.
Lee, T.H. and Chang, P.S., 2017. Examining the relationships among festivalscape, experiences, and identity: evidence from two Taiwanese aboriginal festivals. Leisure Studies, 36(4), pp.453-467.
Markwick, A., Ansari, Z., Sullivan, M., Parsons, L. and McNeil, J., 2014. Inequalities in the social determinants of health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: a cross-sectional population-based study in the Australian state of Victoria. International journal for equity in health, 13(1), p.91.
Ralph, S. and Ryan, K., 2017. Addressing the Mental Health Gap in Working with Indigenous Youth: Some Considerations for Non?Indigenous Psychologists Working with Indigenous Youth. Australian Psychologist, 52(4), pp.288-298.
Veal, A.J., Darcy, S. and Lynch, R., 2015. Australian leisure. Pearson Higher Education AU.