Reflective Journal Week 4
Issues in Indigenous Health and Communities are very important when learning about the Indigenous people of Australia. I find that understanding overall health and wellness for Indigenous people is integral to understanding the very backbone of who they are as a people and how they see themselves in a worldview that is not very well understood by the non Indigenous society. I feel that though Lecturer Katrina Thorpe covered as much as she could in the three days allotted, I am eager to learn a lot more, especially in the area of social justice because no one should have more rights than another in society.
It is interesting to note that Lecturer Katrina Thorpe mentioned from the Community Aid Abroad/Oxfam homepage that included in every person’s basic rights is to have:
1. enough to eat
2. equality of opportunity
3. an education
4. freedom from violence
5. a livelihood
6. clean water
7. a safer environment
8. health care
9. a home
10. and a say in the future.
This seems to differ when it comes to Indigenous Australians because it is well known that prior to colonization Indigenous people had control over all aspects of their lives and that their standard of health declined shortly after colonization due to the impact of disease, poor living conditions and their fall in socioeconomic status due to the implementations of policies and governmental prejudices. This is something I feel has played a huge role in how Aboriginal health is today, because in so many ways, the ways of the colonizers has stayed with Indigenous people. Indigenous people continue to fight with what they have always believed in, that their identity is connected to everything and that the “social and emotional wellbeing concept is broader” (Social Health Reference Group, 2004) than the biomedical definition that Western society puts on health.
The differences in how health is perceived in the non-Indigenous worldview versus the Indigenous worldview are very intriguing. In particular I liked the first reading for Module 4- ‘Aboriginal Peoples’ Concept and Perception of Health because it states “Health” to Aboriginal peoples is a matter of determining all aspects of their life, including control over their physical environment, of dignity, of community self esteem, and of justice,” (National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, 1989)) and that it is not merely “a matter of the provision of doctors, hospitals, medicines or the absence of disease and incapacity.”(National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, 1989)
As a First Nations woman I have often felt a division between the Western viewpoint of health and the Indigenous viewpoint of health. I feel this divide because I have grown up using the Western model of health and have only in the last few years come to understand the Indigenous model of health and how it encompasses the emotional, physical, social and spiritual aspects of being and does not just focus on ‘finding the quickest fix’ like the Western model.
I found it disheartening to read “governmental healthcare policies and programs implemented in Australia over the past two decades have not resulted in significant improvements in most aspects of Aboriginal health outcomes,” and that
when compared to the general population Aboriginal people still continue to have shorter life expectancies, “suffer from higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, cancer, renal failure, and respiratory ailments and have higher mortality rates among all age/sex cohorts.” (Ivanitz, M. 2000)
There are many reasons why the health status of Indigenous people remains much worse than the non- Indigenous population, but as stated in the Summary of Australian Indigenous Health, 2009, substantial improvements in Indigenous health will “depend on long-term collaborative approaches involving Indigenous leaders and communities, the health and non-health sectors, and all levels of governments.” (52)
However it is enlightening to know that there are such initiatives as Close the Gap, Shake a Leg, Spring into Shape and ASCHE have been implemented in some schools and communities.
Ivanitz, M. (2000) Achieving Improved Health Outcomes for Urban Aboriginal People: Biomedical and Ethnomedical Models of Health, Australian Journal of Public Administration, September, 59, (3), pp.49-57
National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, A National Aboriginal Health Strategy Canberra: AGPS, 1989,p. 1
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council (2003) National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health: framework for action by governments. Canberra: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council
Social Health Reference Group (SHRG) (2004). p. 1 National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2004-2009 Australian Department of Health and Ageing Canberra,