It was quite shocking to learn about and experience the horror of racism and how it can affect the health of our Indigenous population in Australia. The Australian Eye, a film by Jane Elliot, although produced in 2001, still had a very important lesson to teach with regards to the deep feelings of despair and hopelessness that the recipient of such appalling treatment can incur. This film divided people into two separate population groups; The Blue Eyes and the Brown Eyes and explored the way that they responded to ridicule and abuse.
Unfortunately I was only able to watch the last half and hour of this film but it still gave me insight into racism and its affect on others. I learnt that racism and discrimination can make a person feel worthless, ashamed and they may even feel frightened to join in normal social actives. We were also lucky enough to spend a lesson further exploring Indigenous issues surrounding the white man settling in Australia and I was shocked to learn about Indigenous history and how inhumanly they were treated. All of this has spurred further research into the current health status of our Indigenous peoples and what we should be doing about it.
Indigenous Australians have the poorest health status in Australia, and this is caused by a number of factors. Since the 1970s, indigenous infant mortality rates have been declining, but life expectancy has not changed because of continued high adult mortality rates. This is mainly due to high death rates from chronic diseases in middle age. The life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is 12 years less the non-Indigenous Australians. Indigenous males can expect to live to 67 years and females can expect to live up to 79 years.[i] The leading causes of death include cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, cancer, assault, motor vehicle accidents and self harm. Other causes include renal (kidney) diseases and diabetes these diseases can also be attributed to poor diet. A report tabled in 2006, reported that Indigenous Australians were 1.2 times more likely to be obese or overweight than non- Indigenous Australians, the report also showed that one in five indigenous Australians in remote areas report no usual daily fruit intake and 15% reported no usual intake of vegetables.[ii] It is well established that a healthy diet, has a protective effect against dieses, such as heart dieses and cancer.
Figure 1 presents further comparisons of age-standardised rates for specific causes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations health conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and shows how Indigenous have higher death rates.[iii]
Evidence suggests that discrimination and racism are associated with a range of adverse health conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Studies show links between race-based discrimination and depression and anxiety, as well as smoking, substance use, psychological distress and poor self-assessed health status.[iv]
Most of these problems can lead to or cause self harming and also contribute to motor vehicle accidents.
Current health statistics reveal a large inequality between non indigenous and indigenous groups. I have learnt that discrimination is directly linked with determining the health, especially the mental health of an individual or a population group. I believe, that whilst it is imperative that the Australian Government formulates strategic plans to improve the lives of our indigenous populations, with an overall aim to improve health services, including accessibility to these services and access to clean water, fresh food and education, the Australian Government needs to equally work towards ways to permanently stop racism towards all different cultures and races, and especially towards indigenous persons.
The Australian Government has been blundering its way through trying to…