The health status of Australia's Aborigines is far inferior to that of non-Aboriginal Australians. The factors underlying this low standard of health are complex, but relate to the gross social inequality experienced by Aborigines, even today. The social inequality, characterised by extreme socioeconomic deprivation and relative powerlessness, is the end result of the European occupation of Australia, which caused Aboriginal depopulation and dispossession. Since the early 1970s a number of special programs have attempted to overcome the health inequalities of Aborigines, but have really met with only limited success. This limited success is explicable in terms of the gross social inequalities experienced by Aborigines. Alleviation of Aboriginal ill-health requires integrated comprehensive programs, with continued support, at least in the medium term, of special Aboriginal health programs.