Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia: Challenges and Recommendations

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The Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Australian History

The aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders occupy a special place in the Australian history. Despite being considered indigenous and uncivilised, the Australian government has recognised the vital role they place in preserving the Australian cultural heritage and have thus devoted to ensuring that they get respect from society and more so, in providing that the modern society understands them as they are. The indigenous communities in Australia are strict adherents of their traditional ways of living. Most of them do not believe in civilisation and occasionally associates it with westernisation and colonisation. As a result, a majority of aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders have been locked away from the benefits brought about by modernisation (Hill et al.). For instance, the aborigines remain a vulnerable disease group because they are hesitant to adopt the modern medicine which they term as unfit for consumption due to the belief that it originates from the whites (Vos et al. 477).

Healthcare challenges faced by indigenous communities

Consequently, aboriginal adults, especially in mid-adulthood, succumb to curable diseases. For example, inheritable chronic infections are reported to be among the leading causes of death among indigenous Australian adults aged between 25 and 35 (Knibbs and Sly). Instead of seeking medical attention to managing the diseases, most of the locals use a traditional treatment which cannot cure chronic illnesses (Shahid et al. 18)

Cultural Differences

The indigenous Australians are typically different from the general population because of their unique culture and beliefs. At a time when the entire world is embracing industrialisation and civilisation, the aborigines and other indigenous communities still hold on to their old traditions and practices instead of adopting improved ways of living; a thing that exposed them to worse healthcare as compared to non-indigenous people. Although significant improvements had been witnessed in recent years based on the number of indigenous Australians seeking current medication, social disparities remains a limiting factor in service provision. Handling a patient from an indigenous community is very distinct from managing a patient from other civilised societies, and therefore, there is a need for nurses and other service providers to adopt culturally friendly approaches while attending such patients. Noteworthy, indigenous people are culturally sensitive hence observing ethics in service delivery is essential. As a nursing student, I will use the following approach to develop and manage a care plan for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diabetic patient taking into account the cultural safety of the person.

A Person-Centred Approach

The best way to handle an indigenous patient is taking a person-centred approach. This implies that I will focus on the needs of the person whom I am offering the care. The patient-centred approach has been linked to significant positive outcome and patient’s satisfaction. Through the strategy, nurses can directly involve patients in care provision taking into account their cultural and social needs. Subsequently, the approach is in line with the Australian health policy which demands ethicality especially while dealing with indigenous communities. For a successful implementation of the strategy, I will need to assess the factors that affect the health well-being of indigenous societies in Australian and the challenges associated with implementing my patient-based N-PTR plan.

Factors to consider

The first consideration to make is the cultural aspect of the patient. The indigenous communities in Australia are known to be against the westernised treatments (Waterworth et al.). Their cultural beliefs strongly oppose the use of medicine as seen through the high mortality rates associated with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Therefore, I must ensure that I address the cultural needs of the patient by providing that the care does not provoke the patient emotionally or psychologically. The second factor that will impact the implementation of the test is a communication barrier (Waterworth et al.). As stated earlier, aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders’ lives in remote areas with minimal civilisation thus, the language they use to communicate might be local making it difficult to explain specific terms and processes to them. Additionally, I will take into account the social and historical factor of the two indigenous communities. Due to historical underpinnings, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait island people developed a negative attitude towards clinical medicine, and as a result, they have lost trust in hospitals.

Suggested strategies

The nursing governing bodies require that practitioners handle every patient with respect and without any bias ("Nursing And Midwifery Board Of Australia - Professional Standards"). The aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are the two famous indigenous groups in Australia and are coherently protected from any harassment and despise by the board. Having highlighted the various factors that affect service delivery to indigenous groups, I will now develop a strategy that will address the need to offer friendly and ethical care. The first technique to use is establishing a good rapport with the patient immediately after the initial contact. The rapport can be built by engaging the patient in friendly conversation free of sensitive words. I should prove to the patient that his/her wellbeing is my priority as a nurse irrespective of their socioeconomic background.

After developing a good relationship with the patient, the next step is addressing the communication barrier which is prevalent in conversations involving indigenous people. Typical aboriginals or Torres Strait islanders use English as their second language and speaks slightly different English from the standard Australian English. It, therefore, implies that essential aspect of dialect and words meaning might differ from mainstream English (Nyanga et al. 1027). Still, on language, I will use indirect and figurative styles of speech given that indigenous people are profound users of narratives or stories in describing situations. According to (Osborne, 53), direct communication discourages indigenous people from active interaction, and therefore, it should be avoided in such a case.

Another aspect of language that will help improve the interaction with the patient is the use of non-verbal communication (Osborne 49). Aboriginals immensely use hand signs and facial expression in their communication. It will be easy to pass relevant information non-verbally especially where there is a language barrier. Lastly, I must ensure that the psychological and emotional needs of the patient are met. Indigenous people according to McBain-Rigg and Veitch, p. 70 are very sensitive to shame and embarrassment. Their feelings and attitudes are connected to cultural beliefs whereby, society perceives a given characteristic to imply either weakness or strength (McBain-Rigg and Veitch 70). As a result, patients might shy away from sharing their personal information as this may suggest some kind of weakness in a cultural setting. To ensure that my patient does not feel ashamed or embarrassed during the interaction, I will avoid asking for sensitive information that might end up describing the patient in a certain way.

Potential barriers

The primary challenges that will impede the successful implementation of the approaches mentioned above are the historical and cultural beliefs held by indigenous people. The effects of colonisation are deep-rooted in both Aboriginal and Torres Strait island communities and have caused massive distortion of their psychological and social well-being (Beckett). Although the patient might be willing to undergo medical treatment in a modern hospital, the beliefs he/she have can still limit the outcome of the care. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders reside in rural areas that have restricted access to advanced facilities like healthcare, transportation, education among other essential, necessary life requirements (Cunningham). Similarly, the segregation and racial discrimination experienced by the members of the indigenous communities caused lasting psychological effects that are trans-generational. Combined with the current atrocities waged on the indigenous population, racism and unequal distribution of resources has made it hard for aborigines to have access to essential healthcare services; hence, the accrued dissociation from mainstream society (Dart 246).


As discussed earlier, most of the indigenous individuals associate their feeling with societal beliefs and perceptions. For instance, if a patient shares information that shows how ill or desperate they are, it exposes how vulnerable and weak there are. They will then feel ashamed and unworthy to live in the community because others will disregard and demean them. As a nursing student, I will apply the most appropriate techniques to ensure that the patient does not develop a negative attitude or feeling towards the care. The strategies to be implemented include establishing a good communication plan, avoiding sensitive words and information, developing a good rapport, and meeting the psychological and emotional needs of the patient. The indigenous groups are susceptible to contemporary society, and therefore, their care management must be carried out carefully in a culturally safe manner.

Works cited

Aihw.gov.au. N.p., 2019. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

Ban, Paul. "Access And Attitudes To Health Care Of Torres Strait Islanders Living In Mainland Australia." Australian Journal of Primary Health 10.2 (2013): 29. Web.

Beckett, Jeremy. "The Torres Strait Islanders And The Pearling Industry: A Case Of Internal Colonialism." Aboriginal History Journal 1 (2011): n. pag. Web.

Cunningham, Joan. "Socioeconomic Disparities In Self-Reported Cardiovascular Disease For Indigenous And Non-Indigenous Australian Adults: Analysis Of National Survey Data." Population Health Metrics 8.1 (2010): n. pag. Web.

Dart, Jonathan. "Australia’S Disturbing Health Disparities Set Aboriginals Apart." Bulletin of the World Health Organization 86.4 (2008): 245-247. Web.

Hill, Kathleen et al. "Social Disparities In The Prevalence Of Diabetes In Australia And In The Development Of End Stage Renal Disease Due To Diabetes For Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islanders In Australia And Maori And Pacific Islanders In New Zealand." BMC Public Health 17.1 (2017): n. pag. Web.

Knibbs, Luke D., and Peter D. Sly. "Indigenous Health And Environmental Risk Factors: An Australian Problem With Global Analogues?." Global Health Action 7.1 (2014): 23766. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

McBain-Rigg, Kristin E., and Craig Veitch. "Cultural Barriers To Health Care For Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islanders In Mount Isa." Australian Journal of Rural Health 19.2 (2011): 70-74. Web.

Nelson, A., R. Abbott, and D. Macdonald. "Indigenous Austalians And Physical Activity: Using A Social-Ecological Model To Review The Literature." Health Education Research25.3 (2010): 498-509. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

"Nursing And Midwifery Board Of Australia - Professional Standards." Nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au. N.p., 2019. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

Nyanga, Rita et al. "Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Health-Care Delivery: The Views Of Health-Care Professionals In Sydney's Tertiary Paediatric Hospitals." Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 54.9 (2018): 1023-1030. Web.

Osborne, Sam. "Cultural Capacity And Development; The Case For Flexible, Interdisciplinary Research In Remote Aboriginal And Torres Strait Island Communities." Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts 19 (2016): 48-65. Web.

Shahid, Shaouli et al. ""If You Don't Believe It, It Won't Help You": Use Of Bush Medicine In Treating Cancer Among Aboriginal People In Western Australia." Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 6.1 (2010): 18. Web.

Vos, Theo et al. "Burden Of Disease And Injury In Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Peoples: The Indigenous Health Gap." International Journal of Epidemiology 38.2 (2008): 470-477. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

Waterworth, Pippa et al. "Factors Influencing The Health Behaviour Of Indigenous Australians: Perspectives From Support People." PLOS ONE 10.11 (2015): e0142323. Web. 1 Jan. 2019.

October 13, 2023

Health Sociology World


Race and Ethnicity

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