Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring Indigenous peoples’ health and well-being

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Dr Tom Calma is the Co Chair of Reconciliation Australia. Dr Calma is a health advocate and believes strongly in the link between Reconciliation and the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Dr Calma wrote this blog for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I want us all to reflect on health and its links to reconciliation. Better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians will inevitably come through better health. Better health for our people has the effect of building stronger education and employment outcomes, financial security, social participation and respect. Better health is about the social, cultural, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the individual, the family and the community. Better health is very clearly linked to the positive outcomes of reconciliation.

We saw the link between racism, reconciliation and emotional wellbeing in Australia this week as Adam Goodes, a much respected Aboriginal footballer, took time off from the game to deal with racist taunts and booing at AFL matches. Clearly, such examples of racial abuse have an impact on the health of victims. Australia prides itself on being a fair, equitable and welcoming society. Yet for many of our First Peoples, like Adam Goodes, who represent the world’s oldest continuing cultures, racism is a lived experience impacting on social, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing. Research has found that as many as four out of five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people regularly experience discrimination in Australia today. This figure and Adam Goodes’ recent example demonstrate the importance of reconciliation and respect in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

If we can reach a place where we embrace and celebrate the culture, knowledge, spirituality and ancestry of First Australians, and work to eliminate racism, we will go a long way toward improving the health and wellbeing of Australia’s First People—and to building a reconciled, just and equitable Australia for everyone.

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