Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Efforts within the biomedical sphere to address the disparities in health statistics are many and varied. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear the unacceptable burden of this disparity. Repeated voicing of this issue does little to change fraught interactions with the health system, living with preventable diseases, and funerals of people at ages well below the life expectancy enjoyed by other Australians. There is an implicit, sometimes explicit, assumption that ‘evidence-based’ research and more sensitive delivery will translate into positive outcomes, but neither statistical nor anecdotal data supports this.
I explore intersections standing in the way of healthy lives: the largely ignored differences (simplistically called ‘culture’) by which Aboriginal people understand themselves as ‘healthy’ or ‘living well’; why health communication targeting Indigenous Australians remains inadequate; the failure of political/economic will to address social determinants. Domestic violence is a lens through which to analyse these intersections. The relentless abuse of Aboriginal women in domestic violence and sexual assault should be, but is not, cause for national outrage. Violence is a public health problem: not just from injury, disability and death, but an issue in environment policy regarding the enjoyment of healthy life. I push beyond arguments seeking to decolonise health (which turn Aboriginal people into passive victims), to pose more difficult question: Why is the ill-health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people integral to the Australian nation-building project? I draw inspiration from Bea Medicine to ask what anthropology could or should be doing to shed light on this question.