Thursday, June 5, 2008

Health and Welfare of Indigenous Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live in all parts of present-day Australia, from the large cities of Sydney and Melbourne to small country towns and very remote communities. They speak a multitude of languages and belong to hundreds of distinct descent groups. Beyond the struggles of maintaining many of their traditional lifeway patterns, cultural identity, and language, many of Australia's indigenous people also experience conditions of economic and social disadvantage. Recently, however, there has been a renewed focus on monitoring the progress in reducing indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage by the Australian government.


Torres Strait Islander people are a significant cultural group representing one-tenth of the Australian Indigenous population. While they share many of the characteristics of other indigenous Australians, some health and welfare characteristics are different from those of Aboriginal peoples.

Since 1971, indigenous Torres Strait Islander people have been recognized as a separate group from indigenous Aboriginal people according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) standard. From the 1996 Census of Population and Housing onwards, indigenous people have also been able to indicate if they are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin. Torres Strait Islander people are defined within contemporary Australian law as those who identified as being of Torres Strait Islander origin only, or of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.

Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

A recent report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) gives one a look at the current health and welfare situation of Australia's indigenous peoples. Important new information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and welfare was collected through the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing and 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS). The report also includes data from other ABS collections such as the 2006 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) and the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). AIHW surveys such as Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH), and national administrative data collections such as the National Hospital Morbidity Data Collection, the National Mortality Data Collection and the National Perinatal Data Collection are all important data sources used in the production of this report. In addition, the report includes updated estimates of expenditure on health services for Indigenous people.

The relative socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous people places them at greater risk of exposure to health risk factors.

Current Health Risks

The report concludes that in 2004-2005, half (50%) of the indigenous population aged 18 years and over smoked on a daily basis. One in six (16%) reported consuming alcohol at chronic risky/high risk levels in the last week and 19% at short-term risky/high risk levels on a weekly basis. In non-remote areas, 28% of indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported having used illicit substances in the 12 months prior to interview and 49% reported having tried at least one illicit substance in their lifetime.

More than half (57%) of indigenous people aged 15 years and over were overweight or obese in 2004-05. In non-remote areas, three-quarters (75%) of indigenous people were sedentary or engaged in low levels of exercise, while 42% were eating the recommended daily intake of fruit and only 10% the recommended daily intake of vegetables. With the exception of fruit and vegetable consumption, all lifestyle risk factors were associated with fair/poor self-assessed health among indigenous people in 2004-05.

More information about the current health risks and welfare of indigenous Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples is located in the ABS report.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

May 28 - June 2, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of May 28 - June 2, 2008

Mining Firm Finds More Hospitable Host in Benguet

After facing stiff opposition in Nueva Vizcaya, the mining firm Royalco Philippines Inc. expects to have a more hospitable host in Bakun, Benguet, after its exploration permit was approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the officials in the town.

The MGB allowed RPI, formerly Oxiana Philippines Inc. (OPI), to explore possible gold deposits in a 1,000-hectare area in Barangay Gambang in Bakun. In a press conference on Saturday, Ruben Quitoriano Jr., RPI mining engineer, said the firm’s exploration permit is valid for two years until May 21, 2010.

He said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples had issued the firm a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) certificate from the host community. Read the rest of the story here....

Miners Told to Give Indigenous Peoples Better Cut from Resources Boom

Resources companies need to funnel a proportion of their profits into indigenous communities, and indigenous leaders need to take a more "hard headed" approach to negotiating mining royalties, the Federal Government says.

An informal group has been set up by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, to explore how indigenous communities can better use the funds they secure from mining companies in return for allowing them to use their land.

Ms Macklin told a mining industry meeting yesterday that "financial transfers must be structured to increase wealth and capital assets within indigenous communities" and "not be distributed as irregular windfalls to be frittered away for no long-term good". Read more about this story here....

Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples Still Languishing on the Periphery

David James is an Amerindian, an Attorney-At-Law and an informed, passionate and articulate advocate of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guyana. In this interview with the Guyana Review the former President of the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) and the APA’s legal adviser argues that Amerindians must exert more collective “pressure” if they are to secure their full rights as Guyanese. including their right to a genuine say in the environmentally responsible management of Guyana’s mineral and timber resources.

Guyana Review:
Which are the most critical ways in which the environmentally unsound exploitation of mineral and timber resources have affected the way of life of the Amerindians and their communities?

David James
The environmentally unsound exploitation of the mineral and timber resources of Guyana have affected the way of life of the Amerindian people in various critical ways. Principally, we have witnessed environmental degradation which includes damage to the rivers, streams and lakes which are the sources of fresh water and food - in the form of fish - for most communities. There have also been a number of studies which show that Amerindian communities have been affected by mercury pollution which is a direct consequence of gold mining.

With regard to forest exploitation a number of Amerindian communities have been victims of poor agreements resulting in companies’ harvesting in an unsustainable manner. Last May we had a clear example of this in the village of Akawini where the villagers complained about very poor environmental practices, including over-harvesting that resulted in damage to the forests, the ollution of the rivers and creeks in the area through residue from the timber harvesting activity and the destruction of hunting grounds. That was a clear case of indifference to the rights of the indigenous people by a major company. The matter was made public and the company withdrew after the villagers made it clear that they wanted them to leave. Read the rest of the interview here....

One of the Last Isolated Indigenous Tribes in Amazon Visible From the Air

Aerial photographs of an isolated community of indigenous people in the Amazon basin, near the border shared by Brazil and Peru, were released this week to show that they exist but may be endangered by illegal logging.

A photo shows an indigenous Amazon people in Brazil, near the Peruvian border. The Brazilian government released photos of them because of concerns that their way of life is threatened.

One picture, taken by the Brazilian government, showed two men, painted red, brandishing bows and arrows at the camera-bearing plane flying low over the dense rain forest. In another picture, about 15 men, women and children who were not painted looked up from thatched huts. Read the rest of the story here....

Aboriginal Australian Massacre Memorial this Weekend

This Saturday’s commemoration of the Myall Creek masscare will reflect a new stage in reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, being the first since since the Federal Government’s apology to the Stolen Generations, according to a member of the NSW Reconciliation Council.

The commemoration service, to start at 10am, will mark the 170th anniversary of the massacre of 28 Wirrayaray people on Myall Creek Station between Delungra and Bingara, in 1838.

The guest speaker at this year’s service will be Fred Chaney, a former Liberal senator, current director of Reconciliation Australia and Chair of Desert Knowledge.
“The coming together of the settler descendants and the Aboriginal community to share their history is an outstanding example of using history to restore relationships rather than war about white or black armbands,” Mr Chaney said. Read more about this event here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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