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The Impact of Racism on Indigenous Health in Australia and Aotearoa: Towards a Research Agenda

By Yin Paradies, Ricci Harris and Ian Anderson


It is well established that Indigenous Australians and Māori have higher levels of ill health and mortality than non-Indigenous people. It is also clear that the disadvantage suffered by Indigenous peoples2 is associated with both historical and contemporary racism, colonisation and oppression. Both an ‘adequate state of health’ and ‘freedom from racism’ are rights enshrined in legislation in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand).3 Although several recent national and international reports have shown a link between racism and public health, there is little research on this topic in Australia or Aotearoa. In response to this paucity of research, the ‘Racism and Indigenous Health’ symposium was held at The University of Melbourne on 27 November 2007. This event brought together 35 key researchers and policy-makers from Australia and Aotearoa in the area of racism and Indigenous health to discuss recent findings in this field and to set an agenda for future research. The symposium endorsed a cohesive research agenda to advance our understanding of, and our ability to combat, racism as a threat to Indigenous health in Australia and Aotearoa. Five key research questions were identified from the symposium: • What is the prevalence and experience of racism across the life course for Indigenous peoples? • What impact does racism have on Indigenous health across the life course? • How can we appropriately assess systemic racism against Indigenous peoples? • What are the best ways to address systemic racism against Indigenous peoples? • How can an understanding of the ways in which societal systems produce advantage and positive health outcomes for White Australians and Pākehā New Zealanders help improve Indigenous health? These key questions focus on systemic racism, stressing the importance of further research on the prevalence of racism, its impact on Indigenous health and approaches to eliminating it from society. The symposium also highlighted the need to explore the benefits of racial socialisation (i.e. learning about the nature and ubiquity of racism in society) and to find effective ways to combat interpersonal racism against Indigenous peoples. Improvements in health system performance were supported as an approach to addressing systemic racism in health care, and the symposium emphasised the need to systematically estimate the cost of racism to society in Australia and Aotearoa. This discussion paper highlights the vital importance of sound research in endeavours to combat racism as a threat to Indigenous health in Australia and Aotearoa. We hope that this paper will act as an impetus to policy and decision-makers at the national, regional and local levels to engage in efforts to combat racism against Indigenous peoples as a public health intervention

Topics: indigenous health, racism, public health, Aboriginal Australians, Maori (New Zealand people), Australia, Aotearoa, New Zealand, indigenous peoples
Publisher: Casuarina, N.T, Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Flinders University
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:nuws:uws_11588
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