INDIGENOUS HEALTH ESSENTIALS
Even though there have been improvements in the wellbeing and overall health of the aboriginal Australians in recent years, there are still some longstanding challenges. In fact, organizations such as Kalinda, an inaugural Wingara Mura Leadership Program Fellow, launched in 2016 continues to survey new ways to deal with the disparities in health outcomes for Indigenous people of Australia, who are of Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait Islander origin or both. They experience uneven heights of employment, education, and social disadvantages, which have led to poorer healthcare accessibility. Cultivating an environment with fortification from mental and physical abuse as well as offering chances for personal growth is all vital for an extended and blissful life.
Who Are Indigenous People?
A nation comprises of a large number of people with solid links of identity. The national identity is characteristically founded on common religion, language, customs, or ethnicity. Indigenous people definition comprises the notions of first nations/people, tribes, ethnic groups, aboriginals, Jana jati, and Adivasi are all a part of a nation. Indigenous people differ from other citizens in that they symbolize a vast diversity of convictions, philosophies, dialects, customs, and histories. In addition, their notion of therapeutic differs from other citizens.
Indigenous Concept of Health and Healing
There are two types of sickness, physical and mental. Physical illness is caused by different kinds of toxins, accidents, and infectious diseases, whereas mental illness, is due to fear, anxiety, and anger among other emotional issues. Thus, health is an overall physical, social, and mental fitness and not simply the absence of frailty or illness. Indigenous people perceive health in a similar approach. They perceive it as the congruence that exists between people, societies, and the universe.
In various parts of the world, Western biomedical attention and traditional healing ways work hand in hand. For the indigenous population, however, due to their connection to the ancestral way of life, depends heavily on the customary ways of healing. In fact, almost 80% of the developing countries’ population has been projected to depend on traditional healing strategies as their prime source of health care.
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Health Status and Dynamics of Indigenous People
Mortality rates and expectation of life are crucial variables of the health status of a population. Non-indigenous Australians tend to outlive Indigenous Australians and their death rates are half those of indigenous citizens.
For children born between 2010 and 2012, an indigenous girl has a life expectancy of 73.7 years, and the boy is likely to live to 69.1 years. For other citizens, a girl could live up to 83.1 while a boy up to 79.1 years.
Between 2007 and 2011, Indigenous Australians had advanced mortality rates in all age sets when paralleled to non-indigenous. Moreover, the 35-44 age set died at almost 5 times the non-indigenous rate.
Social Determinants of Indigenous Health
Several aspects including the environments in which a person lives can affect one’s health. Health social determinants are aspects that can have helpful and adverse impacts on the well-being of people and communities. Indigenous social health determinants include:
A 2011 survey indicated that for indigenous Australians, the ratio of homelessness was 14 times that of non-indigenous. Additionally, 59% of Indigenous households were renters and 36% owners, compared with 29% and 68% of non-indigenous families.
In all learning institutions, indigenous students were significantly lesser than non-indigenous students. Approximately 49% of indigenous students continued schooling until the age of 12, compared with 81% of non-indigenous students.
Employment and income
In 2011, 50% of indigenous people who exceeded 15 years had weekly revenue of less than $362 compared with $582 for non-indigenous people. Approximately 61% of non-indigenous people were working, compared with 42% of Indigenous. Indigenous Australians had an unemployment percentage rate of 17% compared with 5% for non-indigenous people.
Social determinants effect on health
Indigenous Australians could assess health care better if they had better levels of education, incomes, and were homeowners. This could lessen the health gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Health Gap
There have been significant advancements in national Indigenous health policy, such as the assimilation of the Indigenous allied health Australia, to represent Torres Strait and Aboriginal allied health students and professional. However, Indigenous Australians continue to access poorer health services than non-Indigenous Australians.
Causes of the Gap
The Indigenous Burden of Disease Survey for Australia has established that the following behavioral risk aspects could explain the 49% of health gap:
- Obesity (16%)
- Smoking (17%)
- High blood cholesterol (7%)
- Physical dormancy (12%)
- High blood pressure (6%)
- Alcohol (4%)
- Low consumption of fruit and vegetables (5%)
- Prohibited drug intake (4%)
- Juvenile sexual abuse (2%)
- Violence (3%)
- Unprotected sex
The health gap continues to exist due to the failure of addressing the root causes. Other aspects that have widened the gap include:
Behavioral risk factors
Unsafe health behaviors like too much consumption of alcohol and smoking have widened the gap significantly. These unsafe behaviors are attributed to social disadvantages.
Access to health services
Poor access to valuable health services has contributed towards the health gap. Some of the reasons that hinder indigenous Australians from getting health care include distance and transport concerns and lack of inexpensive services among others. Indigenous health issues can also be allied to the fact that children born into these families usually reside in remote places where governments don’t capitalize on fundamental social services.
The Changing Nature of Indigenous Health
The movements to narrow the gap between the Torres Strait and Aboriginal health and other citizens are gaining popularity. The following are some of the organizations on the forefront of bridging the gap:
Inala indigenous health service that aims at improving the wellbeing and health of Torres Strait and aboriginal people through a series of health, clinical promotion, and research activities
Indigenous health conference that intends to reinforce life expectancy of indigenous people to be equivalent to that of non-indigenous Australians
Institute for Urban Indigenous Health programs that strategize, cultivate and provide wide-ranging health care services to the South East Queensland Indigenous population
The indigenous Australians have been marginalized for many years as discussed above. Although their concept of health and healing can be compared to the Western Biomedical health, social determinants have disadvantaged the indigenous Australians causing a noticeably wide health gap. However, with several organizations and programs emerging to close the gap, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
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Much conversation has been being sparked by a recent growth and competition in Aboriginal and Torres Islander comedy. Not since Basically Black, which screened on ABC Television in 1973, and Babakeueria, in 1986, have we really had a good dose of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander humour in mainstream entertainment.
Current examples include Blak Cabaret, a recent hit at the Sydney Festival and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre, and the Black Comedy sketch show on ABC.
Opinion is rife on what Aboriginal and Torres Islander humour is, and how it is expressed – even though Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have delivered humour on a platter for centuries.
It has flourished via various media from humorous visual arts imagery, slapstick in dance (e.g. Djuki Mala nee The Chooky Dancers), satire in sketch (e.g. Basically Black), parody in life (see Babakeueria), the black comedy of history (e.g. Bindjareb Pinjarra), cabaret in performance (e.g. The Mary G Show), and most commonly the tradition of oral story telling with funny, true, made-up, exaggerated, dry, corny, obviously analytical jokes and yarns of the mob (e.g. Deadly Funny).
The diversity of our humour is prevalent and exists embedded within the diversity of our culture. Amusingly enough there has been a lack of awareness among non-Indigenous peoples about our humour, as discovered by Professor Lillian Holt on researching Aboriginal humour for a PhD, during which a documentary filmmaker stated that:
As a whitefella, I’ve never equated Aboriginal people and humour. It seems to me so incongruous.
Our communities – like all – are a mix of genders, ages, languages, religions, and beliefs. Humour can be situational, regional, age and gender relative. Unless you’ve been privy to it by making an effort to coexist and communicate with our people and culture, it has remained mostly covert within Indigenous communities themselves.
Continued ignorance about us as “people” and the human quality of humour and comedy that we have can be annoying. Anthropological and ethnographic views and analysis continue even about the existence of our sense of humour.
Across the board we as humans know that “if you don’t laugh, you cry”. Shared values among indigenous peoples worldwide note humour existing as a resistance to oppression, an expression of identity, a means of survival and a tool for healing. Many areas of Australian Indigenous life and culture continue to be misunderstood, unheard, misinterpreted, appropriated and even stolen.
Considering the impact of colonisation, racism, conflict and oppression, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples prevails through humour. So yeah, we have a sense of humour! The question is what should the principles of Blak comedy for mainstream audiences be?
Laughing ‘with’ or ‘at’
Are we giving permission for non-Indigenous viewers to laugh at us or with us? The challenge for Blak writers is this: how do we defuse and resist commonly held stereotypes and misconceptions?
Comedy is an opportunity to bridge the gap. For it to be successful there has to be universality, something audiences can relate to. It should provide moments that continue to challenge ideas of privilege and identity in Australian society without becoming assimilated for the viewing pallet of mass audience appeal.
What’s allowed to be said and what’s allowed to be laughed at? Some may argue that we can take power back via the use and ownership of words and stereotypes – such as the word “gin”. For others this word is still entrenched in trauma and the sexualising of Aboriginal women. By using derogatory terminology back on ourselves can we really empower and remove the historical damage?
Such debates are still needed generally in Australian society. Comedy does have it’s place in this debate, but the wider “race” debate also has it’s place in Australian comedy. A significant challenge for Blak humour in breaking the mainstream is: “Who really owns the humour?”
Obvious analogy, exaggeration and repetitive storytelling is commonplace. What black fulla hasn’t engaged in one of the many common jokes about “Closing The Gap”.
If we accept that Blak humour is unique to the Blak community, intellectual property and copyright presents real challenges for Indigenous writers and performers to not only manage the storytelling responsibilities from and to their communities, but also to protect theirs and their communities IP.
Of course, comedy is hard to write and perform; it’s said that good comedy offends as much as it amuses. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander humour does both and does it well. We just need to see more of it. The journey of moving away from modern-day minstrels is happening.
Indigenous Australians as a group need to continually reflect and participate in the process.