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Worldview and Privilege

Health equity for all the people across the world irrespective of their race and ethnicity
remains an elusive objective. People all over the world face disparities in health status. In 2009,
the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to reduce health inequities across all the
countries in the world (Jackson Pulver et al. 2010). Health equity is defined as the equity to
attain full health facilities irrespective of the social position, ethnicity, and race. However, in
countries like Australia there are several issues in health equity related to the Aboriginals and
Torres Strait Islanders. This essay explores the impact of colonization on the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities portrayed in the movie The Secret River. It will help the
nurses to understand the nature of health problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and
their link with the colonization.
In the movie, there is a striking difference in the indigenous and non-indigenous
perspective of the land and nature. The European settlers consider nature very hostile and harsh
towards them. Therefore, they consider land can be made friendly by cultivating with hard labor.
In The Secret River, the aboriginal people of Hawkesbury River were hostile towards the settlers.
The European colonizers tried to capture the land to build fences and cultivated fields. Different
parts of that land were seized and were named after the colonizers such as Blackwoods
Lagoon, Thornhills Point, Thornhills Creek, Millikins Inlet and Jamesons Mill
(Anderson, 2006). In this way, European colonizers legitimized their claim by Terra nullius
doctrine. During this whole event, the Aboriginals were dispossessed from their traditional land.
Aboriginal people have a spiritual connection with their land and nature. When their land is
occupied by European colonizers, they felt an attack on their spirituality. The plants, animals
were their natural shields, and when the colonizers arrived, they changed the entire landscape of
their natural lands. However, in the movie, Thornhills hard work towards the environment
depicts the mechanism of oppression which was the main feature of colonization. Thornhills
family built up a fence around their house and isolated themselves from nature and Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islanders. Therefore, there was a growing sense of otherness in the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander.
Colonization had negative health consequences in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Their generations have passed on pervasive risk to their social, spiritual, cultural and
psychological wellbeing (Zubrick et al. 2010). The current disadvantages in the health outcome
faced by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are associated with the historical determinants
{Gee, 2014 #4}. The arrival of European colonizers brought new illness to the Aboriginal
people. Besides these, the Aboriginals also faced poor health outcomes due to racism,
discrimination, loss of identity, language, culture and land (Taylor, 2008). One of the study
reported that the life expectancy for the Aboriginal people is 10.6 years lower as compared to
non-Aboriginal people (Phillips et al. 2014). Similarly, the major health gap in the Aboriginal
people is due to non-communicable diseases 70%, cardiovascular diseases 23% and mental
disorders 12% (Vos et al. 2009). One of the former Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner
stated that "Indigenous peoples are not merely `disadvantaged citizens.' The poverty and
inequality that they experience is a contemporary reflection of their historical treatment of
peoples. The inequality in health status that they continue to experience can be linked to systemic
discrimination" (Vos et al. 2009). This shows that colonization has a significant impact on the
health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and there is a need for robust strategies to
develop a holistic and cultural approach towards the improvement of health outcome of the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
In the mainstream health system, the social, emotional and cultural aspect of health is
usually ignored which is the major cause of health inequity for the Aboriginals and Torres Strait
Islanders. Therefore, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders hardly trust the mainstream
health services for their health issues. The health services which are controlled by the
Aboriginals highlights the issue of lack of holistic approach to treating Aboriginals in their
cultural, emotional and psychological context. Australia is a culturally, linguistically and
experientially a diverse country and therefore these health disparities for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islanders are often ignored. Therefore, it is important that every health care setting develop
a holistic approach to provide optimum health care services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Nurses play a crucial role in the development of a holistic approach to deal with the
health issues of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These people are usually very
sensitive to the views of a nurse and can easily pick up on nurses expectations for positive
health outcome (or negative). The nurse can significantly promote resilience in the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islanders from their past colonial history. Nurses need to be aware of the fact
that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people belong to diverse cultural groups and their
beliefs, values, and communication style is different from white people. In the provision of
clinical care, the nurse must be aware of the traditional taboos of the Aboriginals. It is often seen
that the Aboriginal people do not speak the name of a person who died recently. They consider
speaking the name of a dead person is disrespect. These traditional taboos are although minor for
non-Aboriginal person, but they are essential to Aboriginals belief. If a nurse does not show
respect to the culture and history of the Aboriginal people, it is possible that Aboriginal person
stops working with that nurse. Therefore it is important to discuss the ideas and show respect so
that an Aboriginal person feels comfortable. The holistic approach to treat the health woes of the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people includes therapeutic, cultural, emotional, and
psychological intervention. In this way, the health outcome of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Island people can be improved, and the disparity due to cultural differences can be reduced.
It can be concluded that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people were demoralized,
displaced and were labeled as an outsider from their land and nature. Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Island people had a spiritual relationship with their land. Displacement causes serious
emotional, and psychological trauma which was passed on to multiple generations. The major
health inequity for the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Island people is the lack of cultural and
historical context. It is important for the nurses who are linked with the provision of clinical care
to the Aboriginals must focus on the social determinants of their health. The holistic approach for
Aboriginal health should emphasize on the biomedical model along with social support to reduce
their colonial woes.
Anderson, K.J., 2006. 'After sprawl: Post-suburban Sydney. In E-Proceedings of the Post-
Suburban Sydney: the City in Transformation Conference., Centre for Cultural Research,
University of Western Sydney, 2006.
Gee, G., Dudgeon, P., Schultz, C., Hart, A. & Kelly, K. 2014. 'Social and emotional wellbeing
and mental health: an Aboriginal perspective.' Working together: Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice, 2nd edn.(Eds P
Dudgeon, H Milroy, R Walker) Chapter, 4, pp. 55-68.
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Zealand and the United States: laying claim to a future that embraces health for us all'.
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Vos, T., Barker, B., Begg, S., Stanley, L. & Lopez, A. D. 2009. 'Burden of disease and injury in
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: the Indigenous health gap.' international
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Zubrick, S. R., Dudgeon, P., Gee, G., Glaskin, B., Kelly, K., Paradies, Y., Scrine, C. & Walker,
R. 2010. 'Social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and
emotional wellbeing.' Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental
health and wellbeing principles and practice, pp. 75-90.