Following on from previous posts, Professor Kerin O’Dea, director of the Sansom Institute at the University of SA, has some more story tips:
• We need much more sophisticated analysis of the state of Aboriginal health. At present it’s often reported as if the issues are the same for all Indigenous Australians. But some Aboriginal groups are doing quite well and we need to understand the differences between them and the ones that aren’t. The socioeconomic status gradient with kidney disease, for example, is much steeper in Indigenous populations than for the non-Indigenous population. This means that in this area, the health differential between the most and the least disadvantaged Indigenous Australians is much greater than for other Australians. It is important that we better understand the reasons for this
• Policies forcing kids to attend school – eg no pool, no school – risk sending kids to systems ill-equipped to cope with them. The schools may not have enough space, equipment or teachers to cope. If we’re going to be punitive to parents if their children don’t go to school, then we will have to provide the resources to cope with that, including large numbers of remedial teachers.
• Banning two-way language education has the potential to be bad for health. It’s terribly important to respect peoples’ traditional culture, particularly in remote areas, and not to diminish it in the eyes of children by saying it’s not going to be part of your education system.
• It would be informative to document the money that’s been wasted on “white elephants” such as the huge building in one remote community that was meant to house old people but is empty because no one wants to live there. There are many examples of that sort of wasted infrastructure – built without community consultation. It gives politicians something to announce so they look like they’re doing something!
• We do need to tell the negative stories as well as the positive stories. But we shouldn’t only be shining the light on domestic violence in Aboriginal communities – it is very widespread throughout Australian society. We need to deal better with it right across the board. The charge rate for sexual assault and rape in Australia and throughout the world is very low.