Chapter 6: Aboriginal Community Control and Decolonizing Health Policy: A Yarn from Australia
Bronwyn Fredericks, Karen Adams and Rebecca Edwards Before colonization Australian Aboriginal people lived in a complex society, with high levels of self-determination in all aspects of their lives, including ceremony, spiritual practices, medicine, social and kinship relations, management of land and systems of law. Aboriginal peoples were, as sovereign peoples, able to determine, monitor and evaluate individual, family and community well-being: something their descendants strive to maintain and restore today. Aboriginal people have the worst health of any population group in Australia. Puggy Hunter states that this is ‘the result of the past 200 years of dispossession and dislocation of Aboriginal families and communities’ and argues that ‘the right of native title holders to negotiate over developments on their land is intrinsically linked to improved Aboriginal health in Australia’ (Hunter 1998: 2). It is testament to Aboriginal people’s strength and endurance that cultural, social and spiritual practices have survived and continue to be maintained and revived. This chapter provides an overview of Aboriginal history since 1788 and gives an account of the current health of Aboriginal people in Victoria. It then analyses Aboriginal health policy more generally, and lastly highlights the role of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) in supporting and advocating for improving the development and implementation of health policy through increasing levels of participation by the Victorian Aboriginal community. ABORIGINAL HEALTH STATUS IN VICTORIA Aboriginal people experienced a relatively healthy lifestyle and quality of life before colonization in 1788 (Saggers and Gray 1991: 59). At...
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