The Impact of Colonization on Indigenous Australians

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Cultural, Safety, Self-determination, and Collaboration are Central to Ensuring the Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

 In this essay, I will discuss how colonization impacts the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, how cultural and social locations affect my career as a healthcare giver when treating these individuals and the advocacy strategies I should implement in healthcare service to reduce the gap for Indigenous Australians. According to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO), health goes beyond physical wellbeing of a person instead it concerns the cultural, social and emotional wellness of the entire society whereby an individual can live to the full human being potential hence contributing towards the entire wellbeing of the society (Nash, Meiklejohn and Sacre, 2006).

 I believe it is vital to consider the background of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals in Australia. Colonization means that a group of people exercise full or partial dominance over another nation which involves economic sanctions and settler occupation. For hundreds of years, the European nations such as Portugal, Europe, Netherlands, Spain, and France have dominated many countries around the world, thus formulating great empires between 1500 and 1800 (Nash, Meiklejohn and Sacre, 2006).  

During the Australian colonial era, racism was rampant. Indigenous Australians were coerced to set up residences in reserves and mission centers where there were numerous restrictions against marrying, socializing and practicing traditional occasions. In this period, assimilation and segregation policies were formulated as well as geographical limits and institutionalization. The indigenous Australian population was even prevented from speaking their native language, practicing their traditional customs or passing them down to their offspring. Colonization thus caused great conflicts that led to high mortality, loss of liberty and the alteration of the Indigenous Australian culture and social beliefs (Bell et al., 2000, p. 77).

Over the years, post-colonialism discrimination against the Indigenous Australians has led to long-term psychological and physical impacts which are usually trans-generation in nature. To date, Indigenous Australians are greatly affected by racism and discrimination, which has contributed to high unemployment rates among this population. According to statistics, 17% of the Indigenous population is unemployed compared to only 5% of the non-Indigenous Australians (Durey and Thomposn, 2012). Everyday stress factors related to economic circumstances among the Indigenous Australians have greatly contributed towards their health complications.

In Australia, colonial policies have been formed for example combining Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians, therefore, forcing the Indigenous Australians to adopt the culture of non-Indigenous Australians hence stripping them of the rights to well-paying jobs and equal salaries (Durey and Thomposn, 2012). The harmful policy against Indigenous Australian’s is directly correlated to their health. The health policy for the Indigenous Australian population has failed to meet their health standards thus causing poor health outcomes among this population. According to (Bennett, Zubrzycki and Bacon, 2011), Indigenous Australians have two and a half times higher risk of contracting diseases than the non-Indigenous Australian population. Moreover, colonial policies regarding implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health have ironically led to high mortality, mental, physical and emotional health issues (Durey and Thomposn, 2012).  

Secondly, I will consider how my cultural and social locations affect my career as a health practitioner especially when treating Aboriginal patients and their family members or dealing with other Aboriginal healthcare providers. I am unique from other nurse students because I am Chinese. Thus I lack knowledge of the historical background and culture of Australians. I find it quite challenging to provide proper health care services to Aboriginal Australians due to the language barrier. However, as Healthcare, the common goal is to work hard to improve the well-being of every patient. It is therefore vital to be familiar with the culture of the Aboriginal Australians. Liaw et al., (2011) state that for a healthcare provider to offer effective healthcare services, it is important to understand the culture of the patients and how to offer cultural safety. Cultural safety involves offering a comfortable environment for the community, the family and the service provider at the workplace whereby each feels secure and can express themselves without fear of denial, attack or challenge of their identity. Culture safety is also about giving and receiving respect and dignity through experience shared meaning and shared knowledge. In my opinion, cultural safety involves nursing practices which require one to exercise professional strength, self-knowledge, and comprehension of a patient's diversity, background and biomedical information (Durey and Thomposn, 2012).  I should be able to offer every patient the right to make their own independent decisions concerning their healthcare. Indigenous Australians have the right to self-determination whereby they choose healthcare service that is indigenous specific provided by Indigenous Australian health practitioners. Self-determination is a term that describes how people have the right to decide what kind of services they require and how to run their own lives. It is important for a non-Indigenous healthcare provider to maintain a collaborative cross-cultural relationship between then and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients (Peiris et al., 2012). Such a relationship is important for better understanding between the two parties thus more effective healthcare services.

In this section, I will consider the advocacy strategies I should implement in healthcare service to reduce the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals. The steps I should take include becoming an active member of the Lighthouse project sponsored by the Heart Foundation that advocates for positive change in the acute care system to improve healthcare outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals suffering from coronary heart conditions (Liaw et al., 2011). I also have a vital role to implement and improve Indigenous Australian's health disparities. In addition, I will advocate for reducing patients' discharge costs thus improving patient outcomes and causing great savings in the community's healthcare system. Another advocacy strategy is to press for equity and affordability in the health care system for the sake of Indigenous Australians to reduce mortality rates among the population (Nash, Meiklejohn and Sacre, 2006).

The life expectancy of Aboriginals can be improved by offering holistic healthcare for improvement of the physical, the mental and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians thus reducing depression rates and increasing productivity at work and improving life expectancy (Durey and Thompson, 2012). It is my responsibility to offer culture safety to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients so that they can feel safe and free to express their cultural knowledge without fear of discrimination. By doing so, I will make a great input towards bridging the gap of health inequality in Australia. I also agree with the Australian government that works to close the gap on red health flags such as health status and life expectancy to attain long-term positive results within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (Bell at al., 2000).


Colonial policies against Indigenous Australians have led to high death rates, physical, emotional and mental health concerns among this population. I agree that it is important to understand the culture of Aboriginals to provide more effective healthcare services and cultural safety. I will hence implement various advocacy strategies to improve health care offered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients such as providing holistic healthcare for the improvement of well-being thus increasing life expectancy and productivity.

Reference List

Bell, K., Couzos, S., Daniels, J., Hunter, P., Mayers, N. and Murray, R., 2000. Aboriginal

             community controlled health services. General practice in Australia, 2000, pp.74-103.

Bennett, B., Zubrzycki, J. and Bacon, V., 2011. What do we know? The experiences of social

            workers working alongside Aboriginal people. Australian social work, 64(1), pp.20-37.

Durey, A. and Thompson, S.C., 2012. Reducing the health disparities of Indigenous Australians:

            time to change focus. BMC health services research, 12(1), p.151.

Liaw, S.T., Lau, P., Pyett, P., Furler, J., Burchill, M., Rowley, K. and Kelaher, M., 2011.

Successful chronic disease care for Aboriginal Australians requires cultural competence. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 35(3), pp.238-248.

Nash, R., Meiklejohn, B. and Sacre, S., 2006. The Yapunyah project: embedding Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the nursing curriculum. Contemporary Nurse, 22(2), pp.296-316.

Peiris, D., Brown, A., Howard, M., Rickards, B.A., Tonkin, A., Ring, I., Hayman, N. and Cass,

A., 2012. Building better systems of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: findings from the Kanyini health systems assessment. BMC Health Services Research, 12(1), p.369.

October 13, 2023

Health Life Sociology


Race and Ethnicity

Subject area:

Indigenous People

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