Australia has two indigenous communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as part of its national heritage. These are the first communities to live in Australia. They occupied all the regions in the country and they had a good population that was evenly distributed in Australia (West & Murphy 2010, p. 59). However, European colonization of the country reduced the number of the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders at an alarming rate. European colonization had several effects on the two indigenous communities. Firstly, they were forced out of their land that they used to have an active lifestyle of hunting and gathering. This means that the Europeans grabbed and occupied the best lands that were previously occupied by the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders. Secondly, many people from the indigenous communities died from infectious diseases that the Europeans brought into the country (Biddle, & Wilson 2013, p. 110). This is because they were new to the diseases and they had not developed any medicine considering the fact that they only had traditional practices.
Another vital effect of the European colonization of the country on the indigenous communities is that, they were forced to move into reserves and they were forbidden from speaking their native language. For that reason, it was difficult to maintain their culture. Their children were also taken away from them and raised in foster homes with European background (Briskman 2003, p. 97). Additionally, laws were enacted and the two indigenous communities were segregated from other communities in Australia. This means that they were racially abused and were not allowed to have the same privileges as the other non-indigenous Australians. Most of them were forced to live in poverty as domestic workers and casual laborers. They were isolated and prohibited from promoting their culture in the country. For that reason, they were slowly losing on their cultural identity. European colonization, cultural displacement, discrimination, and family disruption contributed to high level of unemployment, poverty, poor health, and homelessness among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia (David 2006, p.186).
Today, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continue to experience social disadvantages especially in the health sector, and discrimination in Australia (Dockery 2010, p. 321). It is important to understand that he European colonization of the country had immense negative effects on the indigenous communities and the impacts are still felt up to date. The two communities have faced and still continue to face discriminations and inequalities that are evident through the difference in life expectancy and health between the indigenous communities and other non-indigenous communities in Australia. This paper will discuss the health disparities and the social disadvantages that the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders experience in Australia today.
Health has been a major concern of the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders. Health problems among the two indigenous communities can be traced back to the time of European colonization. During the colonial era in Australia, the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders were segregated and they were not given the right health care. Today the life expectancy of the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders is about 10 years lower than that of the non-indigenous people in Australia (Fleming & Parker 2012, p. 156). Many factors have contributed to this situation in the country. Multiple factors such as economic, social, and historical factors contribute to the difference in the gap in life expectancy of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Australia.
The historical factors can be traced back to the colonial period in the country. During that period, the indigenous communities were segregated from other communities in the country. They were forced to move out of their lands. For that reason, they went to live in the reserves. During that time, the colonial reserves did not have adequate food, water, or health facilities. Therefore, they had limited access to healthcare. This means that they could easily die from diseases that could be prevented or avoided (Valery 2008, p. 1106). Thus most of them could not live for long. Other non-indigenous communities in the country had access to quality healthcare and proper food. They were never affected by simple diseases because they could be easily treated. That is the reason for the difference in life expectancy during the colonial period in Australia.
Today, there is still a gap in the life expectancy of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in the country. Based on the historical background, the two indigenous communities are still isolated in areas that have little access to health facilities. The Australian government also has lagged behind in allocating resources to areas occupied by the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders (Willis, Reynolds & Keleher 2009, 196). Therefore, there has been slow development in those areas. The slow development has contributed to inadequate health facilities and quality food. The indigenous communities still feel the effects of isolation that they experienced during the colonial time. They still do not have facilities that can improve their living standards. Allocation of resources has been a problem. Therefore, they find it hard to improve the quality of their health. The non-indigenous communities in the country live in comfortable environments just like the ones they used to have during the colonial time. They have easy access to quality health care. This means that their health status is normally guaranteed. For that reason, most of the people from the non-indigenous communities in Australia live to old age. This shows that difference in healthcare facilities is what has contributed to the massive gap in the life expectancies of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Australia.
Another factor that has contributed to poor health among the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders is poverty. During the colonial period in Australia, the indigenous communities were cut off from their economic activities. They were natural hunters and gatherers because their lands provided a favorable environment for hunting. However, when the Europeans colonized Australia, the two indigenous communities were evicted from their lands and forced to live in missionary reserves. The reserves had no hunting grounds. For that reason, the communities could no longer fend a living for themselves. Therefore, they had to resort to other means of survival. The only jobs that they were given during the colonial time were domestic work and manual labor. This means that they had to work in farms and homes of rich people. Today, the two indigenous groups still languish in poverty because they are perceived as people who can only work as manual laborers or domestic workers in farms (Pether 2009, p. 120). For that reason, they cannot make enough money to cater for all of their needs. Most of their money is always spent on food. Therefore, they are always left with a little amount that cannot afford quality healthcare. This shows that poverty, which has been prevalent since the colonial period, is one of the major causes of poor health among the indigenous communities in Australia.
Moving on, another health disparity between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in the country is the level of child mortality rate. Research shows that the level of mortality rate among the indigenous communities is three times that of the non-indigenous communities (Eckermann 2010, p. 184). During the colonial era in Australia, the children from the indigenous communities were taken away from their families to be civilized by European families in the country. Most of the children used to die because of the alienation from their parents at very young ages. Additionally, those who remained with their parents died due to insufficient healthcare. On the other hand, the children from the non-indigenous communities were given proper health care. Additionally, the indigenous communities developed the norm of not taking their children to hospital when they fell sick. The factors that contributed to such norms were the denial of medical opportunities by the colonialists. Furthermore, the indigenous communities believed that they could cure diseases with their traditional medicine. Today, the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders still carry their beliefs from the colonial time. Therefore, they do not take their children to hospitals when they fall sick. They only take them to hospital when until conditions worsen.
The impacts of barriers to social participation, quality education, and economic elevation are felt today and are evident through the early deaths among the indigenous communities. When Australia was colonized, the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders were not allowed to participate in any social function in the country. Additionally, quality education was limited to the non-indigenous communities in the country. Today, the indigenous communities still lag behind in education, and economic and social participation in the country (Arzey & McNamara 2011, p. 751). That has left them in deplorable living conditions. Such conditions have contributed to several health problems among the communities. For instance, the indigenous communities lead in chronic diseases related deaths in the country (Condon et al 2003, p. 116). This is because they live unhealthy lifestyle. They do not have adequate resources at their disposal that they can use to avoid development of chronic diseases among them.
Social impacts of colonization that are felt today by the indigenous communities include the high rate of child protection cases. The cases normally involve high number of indigenous children (Taffe, 2009, p. 153). Many factors have contributed to such occurrences. Firstly, the indigenous children were always taken away from their parents by the colonialists. For that reason, many indigenous parents forgot their parental duties. This is because they did not have children to look after. The indigenous adults therefore did not experience parental comfort during the colonial time. For that reason, they act ignorantly because they had no one to teach them about parental responsibilities. Today, there are high cases of child protection among the indigenous communities as compared to the non-indigenous communities because of parental neglect. The non-indigenous communities have grown under parental comfort and care. Therefore, they have developed parental skills. That is why they have few child protection cases. The current situation in indigenous families always leaves the children in despair. This is because they lack father figures in their homes as compared to the homes of the non-indigenous communities. This has also affected their social life because they always feel alienated. They find it difficult to associate with other children in the society who have strong family backgrounds.
During the colonial times, individuals from the two indigenous communities in Australia, who were under the dominion of the colonialists, suffered instances of trauma because of the way that they were treated. The colonial people exposed most of them to instances of violence (Das 2007, p. 112). They knew no peace, and the only time that they were at peace was when they hid in the reserves. Consequently, these individuals developed low self-esteem, and because they were discriminated against. This is because they were denied the opportunity to make decisions in life and express their authority. They felt isolated and out of place and majority of them were subjected to duties that were stressful. These duties were cumbersome and with little or no pay. The colonialists dictated their lives so that most of them were scared of opposing the dictatorship that they experienced from the colonialists. They resorted to drugs and substance abuse so that they could feel like they had a sense of belonging.
Most of these indigenous groups felt like the colonialists kept them in seclusion, and the only solace that they could find was in substance abuse (Chui & Wilson 2006, p. 152). Majority of people of the indigenous communities resorted to drinking with the pretext that they were using alcohol as a substance that helped them to forget their troubles. These tribulations have created immense effects on the generations that followed them. This is evident in the way that people of the subsequent generations conduct themselves today. Most individuals, especially the youths of these two traditional groups, are raised in the same environment as their ancestors. Therefore, most of their practices and fears are relayed to generation after generation.
The current generation still relies on drug and substance abuse in resolving their troubles because they believe that these drugs help with relieving stress. Inadequate jobs are prevalent among the two indigenous communities (Harrison 2006, p. 98). Therefore, the youths resolve to using drugs in an attempt to remain preoccupied, and feel like they are taking part in a productive activity. Some of them are not exposed to quality education, and as a result, they do not feel as part of the community. This is because they are not able to compete fairly in the job market because the non-indigenous people qualify for better jobs than they do because of the type of education that they are subjected to. These youths decide to venture in drug and substance abuse to help cope with their stress, and the feeling of isolation. Moreover, some of their ancestors seemed to show signs of relief when they used these drugs.
The substance abuse that has continued to the subsequent generations has resulted to an increase in the mortality rate that was initially on the low. For instance, approximately 65 percent of current homicides reported in Australia are because of either the victims being the people who were under the influence of drugs or the person who takes part in the murder being the one who was under the influence of alcohol (Brady 2007, p. 760). This is an indication of the fact that drug and substance abuse that was present in the colonial times has taken a toll on the current generation. This is evident in the way that the indigenous communities in the modern era have most of their youths using drugs to curb the stressful situations that they find themselves in such as the feeling of discrimination, which makes them feel like they do not belong to any group.
Finally, the issue of homelessness has been prevalent among the indigenous communities. From the colonial time, the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders were homeless because of poverty. Additionally, they were forcefully evicted from their land and made to live in the colonial reserves. In the modern era, most people from the two indigenous communities do not own homes. They still feel the impacts of colonization in the country. This is because they are still poor and live in reserves. The reserves do not offer any development opportunities (Castellino, & Keane 2009, p. 174). This makes the communities to feel isolated from the rest of the people in the country. Poverty is the major cause of homelessness among the indigenous communities in the country.
The Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia have been the major victims of colonization. They were the original inhabitants of Australia. However, European colonization of the country disrupted their lifestyle and status in society. Today, the two communities still feel the impacts of the colonial era in Australia. They have been victims of inequalities and discriminations in all aspects of life. This is evident in health and social disparities that are seen in Australia today. The indigenous communities have poor health and social conditions as compared to the non-indigenous communities. For instance, the life expectancy of the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islanders is lower than that of the non-indigenous communities in Australia. Similarly, substance abuse caused by societal stress and depression is prevalent among the indigenous communities. Drawing from the evidences, it is clear that the indigenous communities in Australia still feel the impacts of European colonization of the country.
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