International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

indigenous dot and hand spray painting

Sunday August 9 marked The United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. This year’s theme, “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring Indigenous Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing”, aims to put a spotlight on the issue of indigenous peoples’ access to healthcare services.

Unfortunately in Australia, as well as many other places around the world, indigenous people are generally worse off than the non-indigenous population when it comes to accessing healthcare services. There are a number of complex social and cultural reasons for this, but there are also a number of simple reasons, such as the higher likelihood of Indigenous Australians living in remote communities away from the metropolitan hub of healthcare services, or healthcare services not being culturally appropriate for indigenous people. Services are often subconsciously designed for non-indigenous Australians, and as a result are not always accessible or user friendly for the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.

This situation is somewhat ironic because, perhaps even more unfortunately, studies also show that levels of Indigenous health in Australia are consistently lower than they are for non-indigenous citizens. Their life expectancy at birth is approximately ten years lower than it is for non-indigenous Australians, and they are more likely to suffer from potentially fatal conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, mental health issues, kidney disease, injury or accidents, communicable diseases and respiratory health problems.

On the surface level these higher rates of health problems have been linked to things like nutrition, physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use, and drug use. However, in reality the reasons are far more complicated. They are deeply ingrained in social, cultural, historical, and political issues that must be combated if we expect these rates to improve.

As a healthcare provider, Prestige Inhome Care is passionate about the need to deliver competent and tailored services to indigenous Australians, particularly in the aged care sector. We also recognise the need for the Australian health sector as a whole to help improve indigenous peoples’ access to healthcare. Some of the ways to do this are:

  • Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers on staff in healthcare organisations.
  • Increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the health sector.
  • Designing health promotion campaigns especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Having culturally competent non-Indigenous staff.
  • Making important health services available in rural and remote locations.
  • Health funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • More health advancement programs.
  • Better identification of health conditions before they become too serious.
  • Greater cultural competence of service providers.

Words by Caity Hall