Social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal

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Social and emotional well-being can be defined as a person's sense of social inclusion and belonging as a result of numerous prospering conditions offered by society or by factors that a person creates for oneself. A person's social and emotional well-being has a significant impact on their physical health, and health is holistic in many indigenous tribes (Garvey, 2008). Aboriginal Australians, for example, place a high priority on health and believe that social and emotional well-being are important, despite the group's terrible history. An apology was offered to the people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, commonly referred to as the stolen generation on February 13, 2008 by the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Kevin Rudd. In 2007, Prime Minister John Howard, promised the indigenous communities that the government of Australia would intervene in the northern territory in order to see to the wellbeing of children in these area. These two events go to show that the level of social and emotional wellbeing in Aboriginal Australia was wanting. It can only be achieved by solid primary health care. The essay will attempt to critically analyze Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and examine how Aboriginal Medical Services are underpinned by Primary Health Care principles.

Section A

Social Wellbeing vs. Mental Health

Many aboriginal Australians prefer the term social and emotional wellbeing as opposed to mental health due to a number of reasons. The perceived difference between the term mental health and social wellbeing has made it increasingly difficult to provide effective health programs to help deal with mental health (Ring & Brown, 2002). Aboriginals believe that by using the term social and emotional wellbeing as opposed to mental health, it indicates a more positive approach towards becoming healthy. Mental health is believed to be a state of SEWB where individuals are able to cope with hardships of life and still live up to their potential (Kelaher, Ferdinand, & Paradies, 2014).. This means that people suffering from mental health are able to lead normal lives and contribute towards the society, make meaningful relationships and engage in positive aspects of life. Mental health is a result of interplay between internal and external factors. This means that external factors mostly affect mental health while neurochemistry and internal biology act on the external factors leading to a certain state of mental health. It is possible to either promote or compromise mental health in daily life and this can be done through a number of ways. Mental health therefore ranges from good mental health to compromised mental health.

Although the term SEWB is used to describe issues related to mental health and mental illness, aboriginals believe that the term encompasses a broader scope by taking into consideration the impact of indigenous culture on the health of a person (Russell, 2014). Mental health only considers social and physical factors. Social wellbeing however emphasizes on the importance of culture, connection to land, family, community and spirituality to a person’s health. They believe that these concepts have over the years shaped the social and emotional wellbeing of people across generations. The aboriginals therefore believe that understanding of such concepts (i.e. culture, family ties, ancestry, etc) and their importance will ultimately lead to restoration of social and emotional wellbeing and hence general health. The aboriginal people for example believe that the interconnectedness between a person and their land creates a sense of belonging and social responsibility as well as sense of individual identity. Sensible relationships between people i.e. family and friends and the belief in different spiritual entities also greatly contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of indigenous culture in Australia. Knowledge of culture and the feeling of social significance can be promoted through visiting culturally significant places and meeting and engaging with different people who are significant to the society.

Section B:

Evolution of Aboriginal Medical Services

It can be concluded that unlike mental health, many indigenous people believe that social and emotional well belonging is more than the social aspect. In order for one to fully grasp the concepts of social and emotional wellbeing, it is important to first understand and appreciate the events that brought about the rise of indigenous populations in Australia (Dungeon, Walker, Scrine, Shepherd, Calma, & Ring 2014).. These events happened after the colonization of Australia after which factors such as racism and stressors of life contributed to great numbers of indigenous population in contemporary Australia. The rise of this population in turn led to the high rise of policies regarding mental the mental health of aboriginal Australians as well as the evolvement of Aboriginal Medical Services which aligned themselves with the principle of primary health care as outlined by the World Health Organization.

Evolution of Aboriginal medical Services

Aboriginal medical services have been evolving over the years in different parts of the world. These medical services first bore fruit in St Boniface Hospital and Health Science center where a group of indigenous population was referred to as a result of health issues. As a result, special services to dealt with the welfare of these patients was offered and this resulted to several health professionals volunteering to offer those kind of services even in future. The first Aboriginal Medical Service institution was as result started in Redfern, Sydney 1971. This institution was aimed to raise the health standards of aboriginal communities in Australia and it led to the rise of Aboriginal community-controlled healthcare. In 1972 white Australia policy was abolished and this led to the establishment Department of Aboriginal Affair and a self-determination policy was adopted for indigenous people (Reynolds, 2006). This was followed by an official request was made to the ministers of state by the joint wealth government to organize and deal with indigenous communities in the year 1973.

The National Aboriginal and Islander health Organization (NAIHO) was then formed in proposed in 1974 during a meeting held Albury and formed in 1976. The organization’s first meeting was funded by the AMS operating in Redfern, Sydney. The organization would motivate health workers living among the indigenous population to partake in offering aboriginal medical services the vas population in need of such medical services. The NAIHO was also funded in order founded in order to promote principle f Aboriginal medical services commonly referred to as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCH’s). The establishment of these services increased in various parts in Australia between the years 1970 to 1978. It was not until 1980 however that efficient funding for the ACCH’s was provided by the common wealth.

The leadership consolidation of the ACHH then followed in 1984. This was done through the consolidation of responsibility for all Aboriginal Health Programs funded by the commonwealth under the federal Labor government. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs also bore fruit to funding programs that would help support the ACCHS’s. A commonwealth body of Aboriginal Health Statistics was formed in order to track the level of prevalence and occurrence of health issues related to social and emotional wellbeing among the indigenous communities. Although there had been many positive developments in Aboriginal Medical Services, various setbacks also existed. The major setback was the slow development of the ACCHS’S since the health of indigenous people had been sidelined in many occasions for a period of 10 years.

Eventually, many people were able to understand and gain expertise in policies affecting the health of indigenous people and pave a way forward. The National Aboriginal Health Strategy was created in 1989. This was a big deal as far as evolution of aboriginal medical care was concerned. Another major milestone around the same period was the publishing of a report in 1991 which comprehensively detailed the health needs of aboriginal people. The strategies the government would take to see to these needs and the effectiveness of programs that existed to deal with this issue. This led to the establishment of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled health Organization in 1992. It would replace NAIHO and would allow the Aboriginal people to establish their own organizations to represent them. Advocacy increased through NAACHO which led to increased number of health policies. This further improved the quality of healthcare for the indigenous population in Australia.

In 1999, an annual report led to the introduction of special agreements in the National Health Act (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet., 2017).. These arrangements called for the supply of pharmaceuticals by a recognized pharmaceutical institution to remote areas in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care services. This helped revolutionize the Aboriginal community’s access to medicine from the Pharmaceutical benefits Schedule even without a formal prescription. The increase of pharmaceutical products’ supply has increased by a margin of 35%. Aboriginal health services that have been funded by the government have also increased to 140 between the years 2002 and 2003 distributed across rural and urban areas. The sector has greatly led to the development of primary health care services being offered across Australia to the indigenous population. There has also been increased diversity in this sector. A lot still needs to be improved which includes improving health services to aboriginal people and also hiring more of them in these primary care health institutions.

Aboriginal Medical Services have been set up in such a way that they are aligned to the principles of primary health care as stipulated by the World Health Organization. Some of those principles include prevention is better than cure, the principle of ease of access and the equality in the provision of medical services.

Section C:

Application of SEWB in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services today

Social and emotional wellbeing are useful in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health service today in many ways. Health providers in an aboriginal community therefore highly promote SEWB for the benefit of their patients. One of the major applications of social and emotional wellbeing is in the treatment of mental illnesses among the indigenous community. People with mental illnesses need to feel worthy and to be accepted as part as a part of the community in order for them to heal. Feeling resourceful also promotes their mental health. Healthcare providers in aboriginal institutions ensure that patients suffering from mental illnesses live in conducive environments which will promote their social and emotional health. Emotional instability has especially been a major cause for progressing mental illnesses among patients. Poor SEWB may also promote violence among patients and thus it is important for the concept of social and emotional wellbeing to be applied in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health service today when dealing with patients of mental health.

The concept of social and emotional wellbeing is also being used in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service to reduce the prevailing number of youth suicides. Healthcare providers in these institutions are using cultural continuity and healing programs to ensure this. Such programs have been known to impact positively on the wellbeing of youths who are participants. Culture continuity is promoted through the integration of different youths from different cultures. This helps troubled youth become active socially and may suppress suicidal emotions among the youths. Social integration may also help youths appreciate life more and this has greatly reduced the cases of youth suicides in many aboriginal communities.

Social and emotional wellbeing is also being used in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health service today to promote satisfaction within the health care system (Dwyer, Wilson & Silburn, 2004). Individuals undergoing a social and emotional well-being program are normally counseled in the various aspect of life. Indigenous women are the most common people undertaking the program as compared to indigenous men. Most aboriginal people who have undergone this program today report high level of satisfaction and a change outlook in life. They become more positive and they are willing to take risks and live life to the fullest. As a result, this people become more sustainable and this has generally led to a more productive and mentally healthy indigenous population.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services also greatly rely on social and emotional wellbeing to fix broken family ties. Family healing programs have been established in many parts of Aboriginal Australia with different aims (Kildea, 2016). Some examples of programs that have been formed include programs to help in healing from transgenerational trauma, programs for people who were separated from their families at a tender age and women healing camps where members in these programs are guided through mediation and mentorship. All these programs have proved very useful in increasing the sense of self-awareness, self-worth and self-assertiveness among individuals partaking in them (Wilkisnon & Marmot, 2003). This has greatly resulted to the success of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services today in providing health services to indigenous groups.


It can be concluded that it has taken a while for aboriginal medical services to reach where they are today. A lot still needs to be done as indigenous communities in Australia are lacking when it comes to medical services. Different aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities can come together in order to ensure this. The first major step in achieving this is ensuring that the social and emotional wellbeing of indigenous people is taken care of.


Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. (2017). Social and Emotional Wellbeing (Including Mental Health). Retrieved on August31, 2017 from

Dungeon, P., Walker, R., Scrine, C., Shepherd, C., Calma, T., & Ring, I. (2014). Effective Strategies to Strengthen the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Retrieved on August 31, 2017 from

Dwyer, J., Wilson, G. & Silburn, K. (2004). National strategies for improving indigenous health and health care : overall program assessment. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing.

Garvey, D. (2008). Review of the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous Australian Peoples – Considerations, Challenges, and Opportunities. Retrieved on August31, 2017 from

Kelaher, M. A., Ferdinand, A. S., & Paradies, Y. (2014). Experiencing racism in health care: the mental health impacts for Victorian Aboriginal communities. The Medical Journal of Australia, 201(1), 44-47.

Kildea, S. (2006). Risky business: contested knowledge over safe birthing services for Aboriginal women. Health Sociology Review, 15(4), 387-396.

Ring, I. T., & Brown, N. (2002). Indigenous health: chronically inadequate responses to damning statistics. Medical Journal of Australia, 177(11/12), 629-632.

Reynolds, H. (2006). The Other Side of the Frontier : Aboriginal Resistance to the European invasion of Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press.

Russell, L. M. (2014). Reports indicate that changes are needed to close the gap for Indigenous health. The Medical Journal of Australia, 200(11), 632.

Wilkinson, R. & Marmot, M. (2003). The solid facts. Copenhagen: World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe.

May 17, 2023

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