Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander people Essay

Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander people

The Torres bears the name of Spanish explorer Lis Vaez de Torres, who toured via the sea in the year 1606. The Torres Strait Island culture has an exceptional identity connected to the territorial claim. Some of the history and journals from the late 18th century have offered substantial knowledge concerning the Torres Strait Islander culture and community (Shnukal, 2001). Most of the information points to the diversity of the Islander community, which arose from the varying conditions in each island. The economic activities of the Torres Strait were agriculture and fishing. The people established a communal village that revolved around hunting, fishing, gardening and barter trading (Shnukal, 2001). The inter-trading activities involved food, weapons and artifacts, and this revealed the intergroup relationship between people.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders compose the indigenous population of Australia. In addition, they represent a distinct indigenous Australian populace category from the Aboriginal people. Additionally, these people face a similar health challenge across Australia (Sargison, Marsh and Craigie, 2005). The people also suffer a disproportionate burden of sickness and social demerit when compared to the other population, similar to other indigenous populations in other countries. However, the case in Australia is bad in comparison to other states. The life expectancy is 20 years less in comparison to that for non-indigenous Australians. In addition, the percentage of the population, which has the potential to live to 65 years of age, is very low in comparison to many developing countries.

Significant Issues

The knowledge of the health status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders requires that one should have appropriate knowledge in relation to the historical background of the health issues. Documentation of the Aboriginal health policy has taken place for a number of times. In addition, the research information from Australia provides empirical evidence concerning the social and health determinants of health that have substantial influence on the indigenous population of Australia. Statistics indicate that the current state of the Aboriginal’s health is worse than in the past (Morgan and Morgan, 1997). Below, are the ten significant historical issues that have influenced the health and cultural safety of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The people’s immediate and surrounding environment had a significant influence on the pre-contact of Aboriginal health. In addition, existence of the complex social support chain also influenced the population’s health. However, their narrow knowledge concerning the ecology made it easy for them to harvest and hunt the rich protein, rich fiber, high complex carbohydrate and low fat “bush tucker” foods. This made them predisposed to illnesses because the mentioned foods greatly had a positive impact on the health of the people. Owing to their semi-nomadic nature, this always made them retain their primitive nature.

The people had an active and well-established kinship system made certain their psychological integrity and family support. According to communities with the same culture, 40-60% of the death occurred in the young ones less than 5 years of age, which translated to low morbidity rates in adults. This primarily results because of their isolation with the western culture. With the emergence of the European colonization, which brought about dramatic alterations in the environment due to displacement of the stock farming by the ecology, the Aboriginal people embraced a sedentary lifestyle, such as settling on the outskirts of European streets in order to acquire desirable goods circulated by the Europeans.

In addition, the Europeans also distributed undesirable products including infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles, whooping cough, influenza, typhoid, tuberculosis, leprosy and STDs. Owing to the non-immune nature of the Aboriginal people; the diseases had a devastating effect. In addition, the community experienced violent conflicts, which resulted to deaths of about 20,000 people in the SE states during the 1920s. The forced integration and child displacement approaches of the Aboriginal protection Council amid 1909-1969 had a hand in the cultural and social degeneration of the community (Morgan and Morgan, 1997). Therefore, with the loss of land and heritage and reliance on social security benefits central to an approach, which was inappropriate to their culture had a negative impact on families and social living.

Although there were efforts to eradicate health issues by combining and associating infectious diseases with nutritional and environmental elements such as immunization programs, provision of water and housing had an impact on low mortality in infants and overall death rates, but had no effect on the Aboriginal population. Tobacco smoking is a practice linked to the high morbidity and mortality rates of the Aboriginal population. Although the issue did not attract attention, there is an effort to establish cessation projects constructed for the people. However, historical records claim that indigenous use of tobacco today illustrates strong continuity with past patterns and methods of use (Morgan and Morgan, 1997). The studies also suggest that Europeans deliberately manipulated Aboriginal addiction to nicotine.

Alcohol and suicide are leading to death of Aboriginal population in their 20s. The alcohol is the primary cause of stroke among the population. This information is from the National Drug and Research Institute that highlights the high rates of alcohol abuse on the indigenous population. In addition, the information suggests that 1145 Aboriginals died due to injuries caused by alcohol between the years 2000-2004. Although most of the diets consumed by Aboriginals had high nutrients and low fats, modern diets have high fats and sugar, but they have low nutrition contents. Additionally, the high fats and low fiber foods result to a number of disorders such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes (Dunne et al., 1994).

Additionally, the infant mortality rate among Aboriginal people is high in comparison to the national average. Some of the health concerns include newborns are likely to have extremely low weights. Nine out of ten children aged five smoke cigarettes at home, and ear infections that contribute to hearing and speech problems. In addition, sniffing petrol is a serious challenge, which has claimed over 100 Aboriginal lives since 1981-2003 in Australia. This practice is common in Aboriginal people across Western Australia and the youth sniffs petrol.

Part 2


Culture shock is an important challenge facing non-indigenous health workers working in indigenous societies in Australia. This is because culture refers to the common way of life, values, morals, language and patterns of the particular population. In this case, health professionals will find it a challenge because they do not share in the same culture with the Aboriginal people (Dunne et al., 1994). The experience by health workers in these societies has adverse effects in the delivery of quality services to Aboriginal people. Health workers experiencing such culture shock are likely to leave the community, together with their health proficiency leading to an increase in staff turnover.

In addition, this will lead to compromise because the indigenous people will likely to lose confidence in the healthcare provision. Out of the many studies on the topic of indigenous people, the issue of access to the health care services emerges as a significant barrier in healthcare delivery. Therefore, the lack of access to these services further increases the suffering of the already culturally dispossessed community. The primary reason as to why this becomes a barrier is the distance as to the location of healthcare facilities.

Indigenous communities are likely to live 25 kilometers away from the services and medical facilities. This means that such people would not find it favorable to walk such a distance to a hospital translating to poor health outcomes. In comparison to non-indigenous people who live in urban areas, the indigenous people were disadvantaged in regards to availability of services such as mental health, diabetic, baby and STDs clinics (Dunne et al., 1994). Conversely, physical distance may not define ease of access. It is important to consider environmental availability and transport availability.


Although culture shock is difficult to manage, it is to some extent possible to manage the challenge. The health professionals might feel hopeless because one feels like giving up in serving the community. However, it is important to include some of the people in the health program who will assist in administration of the service. This may include the elders and any other enlightened individual (Sargison, Marsh and Craigie, 2005). In addition, if there are educated people among the indigenous population, they can serve as staff members, to assist in doing simple medical tasks. Also, it is important for healthcare professionals to construct healthcare facilities in the remote areas. If this may not work, the professionals through the government can offer transport services to the people, or utilize mobile healthcare facilities.


Dunne, P. et al. (1994). Health Services Provision in Rural and Remote Areas: a needs analysis.

Medical Journal of Australia, pp. 161-162.

Morgan, D., Slade. M. & Morgan, C. (1997). Aboriginal philosophy and its impact on health careoutcomes. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 21(6), pp. 597-601

Sargison, H., Marsh, B. & Craigie, L. (2005). Good hearing, good talking, strong futures:

Establishing a model of service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Australian Communication Quarterly, 7(2), pp. 65-68.

Shnukal, A. (2001). Torres Strait Islanders. In M. Brandle (Ed.), Multicultural Queensland

2001: 100 years, 100 communities. A century of contributions. Brisbane: Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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