The Impact of Colonization on the Health of the Indigenous People in Australia

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Colonization has caused a significant influence on the Torres Strait Islander and the Aboriginal population by contributing to long-term health issues that continue to be the cause of poor health of the two groups (Calma, 2007). Before the arrival of the Europeans, the two groups lived an active lifestyle with the freedom to hunt and gather promoting their good health. Colonization discriminated the indigenous people by excluding them from their traditional power base. Consequently, the exclusion led to effects that contributed to poor dietary patterns, increased illness, and drug abuse among the indigenous people (Franks, 2001. pp.2).

The health condition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals is poor in comparison to the other Australian population. According to Waterworth et al. (2015), the colonization caused a large inequality gap across Australia. During the colonization era, racism was persistent in Australia. Most indigenous people were forced to live in reserves and missions where freedom to socialize with relatives, traditional practices, and other activities were restricted. The condition denied indigenous people an equal opportunity to be as healthy as the natives (Aspin et al., 2012. pp. 8). The socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal people placed them at higher risks of exposure to environmental and behavioral health risk factors. This is because most of them lived in conditions that do not provide good health. In addition to that, the indigenous people did not enjoy proper access to primary health care and treatment facilities including an effective sewerage system, rubbish collection, and safe drinking water.

The poor wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a product of the impacts of colonization. It resulted from dispossession, discrimination, exclusion, marginalization, and inequality. According to Dudgeon et al. (2014. 6), the colonization process and the impacts caused a situation of lack of trust between the non-indigenous and the indigenous people and hindered the process of healing and reconciliation. These have led to unique stress among the indigenous people. Stress is more prevalent across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities in current Australia. The pressures the communities face include severe events such as death. Consequently, the stress becomes harmful to the mental health and the social well-being of the groups. These issues have created a health burden across all generations of the indigenous people.

The different faith, beliefs, interpretation of value, understanding health, and identity makes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people less willing to use the healthcare facilities (Li, 2017. Pp. 208). Since I have different belief and understanding, I will create awareness among the indigenous people about the need for accessing the health infrastructure. It is essential to educate the groups about the dangers of skipping treatments to make them understand why they need to seek medications.

Cultural safety, self-determination, and collaborations are the effective tools that are central to ensuring better health among the two indigenous communities. According to Li (2017. 208), ensuring health care accessibility and availability requires cultural support. Cultural safety will ensure that obstacles such as differing languages, poor medical procedures, the conception of sexuality and gender, and other poor practices are eliminated. These cultural barriers are the lead cause of unsatisfactory products of health care services among the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal people due to serious miscommunication between parties of a different culture. Since these barriers lead to unequal health among the indigenous people in Australia, cultural safety will ensure positive outcomes by eliminating the obstacles.

Collaborations are also another factor that can enhance better health care for the indigenous groups. According to Kimpton (2013. pp. 1), collaborations such as Australian Indigenous Document Doctors’ Association (AIDA) works to promote partnership, indigenous leadership, and appropriate culture that is linked to federal policy development and implementation of better health. The association also promote workforce as an essential feature of Health Plan to ensure delivering of high-quality and sustainable health services for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people. According to Kimpton (2013. pp. 1), the collaborations have made the indigenous medical workforce in Australia to grow even if the group is still underrepresented in the area. Thus, it is believed that partnership is the solution to a stronger workforce and improvements in indigenous health. 

Self-determination can also enhance better health for the indigenous people. The process of self-determination can provide evidence that guides future planning that could take place at the indigenous community levels (Franks, 2001. pp.1). In addition to that, the process creates the understanding of the status of indigenous people's health and their culture to enable acknowledgment of the factors that have impacted on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. More importantly, specific issues can be well identified, the function of the government can be mapped out at all levels, and existing programs concerning the community can be assessed (Franks, 2001. pp. 4). Consequently, appropriate mitigation measures can be developed to enhance better health for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. 

It is essential to review the policy context governing the health status of Australian people (Skerrett et al., 2017). As a health officer, I will review and identify the existing gaps in the health policy document and propose recommended measures that can enhance better health for indigenous people. After that, I will hold campaigns to raise awareness about the policies developed specifically to address the health needs of the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders communities. In addition to that, I will encourage the government initiatives that have developed health plans and guidelines to address the challenges facing policies for the indigenous health. As a health officer, I will also enhance efficient programs and service delivery to set an excellent example for others. This will be through advocating the recruitment of skilled staffs in health units serving the indigenous communities. In addition to that, I will ensure proper coordination and monitoring of programs and services to ensure they are effective.

Another essential strategy is the promotion of the recognition of human rights. According to Dudgeon et al. (2014. 14), the Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people, have the right to full and effective participation in programs that affect their wellbeing. The fact that the indigenous people have a right to appropriate health services, I will create awareness about such rights to ensure that they are not marginalized. I will try to convince the people working with human right frameworks to ensure that the acts are not overlooked but enforced across all regions.

The health issues of the indigenous people were caused by the effects of colonization. However, there is still better opportunity for mitigating the circumstance to ensure better health provision for the two communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander's health need to be viewed holistically. The government and other relevant authority should provide better health care that ensures physical wellbeing, social, emotional, and cultural wellness of the two indigenous communities. The differences caused by colonization should be reduced by provision of equal opportunities for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to enjoy health services to their fullest potential.


Aspin, C., Brown, N., Jowsey, T., Yen, L. and Leeder, S. (2012). Strategic approaches to enhanced health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic illness: a qualitative study. BMC Health Services Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Calma, T. (2007). Social determinants and the health of Indigenous peoples in Australia – a human rights-based approach | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Dudgeon, P., Ring, I., Calma, T., Shepherd, C., Scrine, C. and Walker, R. (2014). Effective strategies to strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. [online] (12). Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Franks, A., Smith-Lloyd, D., Newell, S. and Dietrich, U. (2001). SelfDetrmination Background Paper: Aboriginal Health Promotion Project. Southern Cross University.

Kimpton, T. (2013). Partnership and leadership: the key to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Medical Journal of Australia, [online] 199(1), pp.11-12. Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Li, J. (2017). Cultural Barriers lead to Inequitable Healthcare Access for Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Journal of Chinese Nursing Research, [online] (4). Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Skerrett, D., Gibson, M., Darwin, L., Lewis, S., Rallah, R. and De Leo, D. (2017). Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Suicide: A Social-Emotional Wellbeing Service Innovation Project. Australian Psychologist, [online] 53(1), pp.13-22. Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Waterworth, P., Pescud, M., Braham, R., Dimmock, J. and Rosenberg, M. (2015). Factors Influencing the Health Behavior of Indigenous Australians: Perspectives from Support People. PLOS ONE, [online] 10(11). Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

October 13, 2023

Health Sociology


Race and Ethnicity

Subject area:

Indigenous People

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