When I think about the injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, I sometimes feel overwhelmed. A widening gap in life expectancy, soaring rates of incarceration, our children taken away from their families at 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children, our women dying at epidemic levels from domestic and family violence. Where do we even start?”
Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Close the Gap 2020 (1).
Facts are fundamental to instigating change, and in Part 2 we will look at some key statistics for you to take away and consider, and end with a series of practical steps that you can take.
For a brief look at the overall current state of affairs, the latest available data is stark viewing – from the health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples 2015 report (9) which should be read in full. I have pulled out a few graphs that I know will be of relevance to doctors in training. Each one of them shows the same tragic story – Indigenous people having higher rates of illness at much younger ages when compared to non-Indigenous people of the same age.
A word of caution – most Australian doctors are highly familiar with the below statistics and would not be surprised by any of the above – it is very important to realise that this deficit discourse is a particular narrative that tends to reduce Indigenous populations to deficiency – absence, lack of, or failure. The implication is that it situates responsibility with affected individuals or communities while allowing the larger socioeconomic structures within which these inequalities are occurring are allowed to escape close scrutiny. The current recommendation is to move away from deficit-based discourses to strength-based discourses – the below data is presented for junior doctors specifically, it is important to have some bearing of the magnitude of disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, not to focus on the particular deficits. You can read more about this (10).
2. Cardiovascular disease
3. Mental health
4. Chronic kidney disease
These graphs are all shocking – what can you do?
Pick the statement that applies to you and read through to see what steps you could take right now after reading this article.
|“Look I think this is really important but I am just too busy with clinical work, research work and staying alive” – if you have 15 minutes to donate to this cause|
|“This is a fairly important issue and I want to give it some more time and thought” – if you have two hours to donate to this cause.|
|“This is a hugely significant issue and I want to spend more of my professional life working on it” – if you want to become professionally involved|
If you have any other practical suggestions, please send them through and we will add them to the table above.