Indigenous community development: australian aborigines

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Indigenous Community Development: Australian Aborigines

The disturbance inflicted by the commotion of the postcolonial era has detached the close cultural ties of kinship that used to exist formerly previously within the Indigenous communities all over across Australia. As a result, aboriginal communities today are composed of various groups of tribes which share the same community. In many occasions, we need a 'start again' approach to confidently develop the connections and trust for a steady foundation on the road to community development from an original perspective. The troubles for Indigenous people have increased specifically family violence as well as dependency on drugs. With all such issues, the indigenous community required development in the efforts of making sure that they stay away out of these problems. Community development is simply the realization of exploitation as well as oppression by all members of the community and working towards the implementation of solutions towards the same (Labonte, 1993).

Colonialism in Australia and topics such as white power and authority highlighted avenues that caused the near-total obliteration of the Indigenous people of Australia, and to what extent it connected to racist un-justification, including details of the settlement and the death of almost half the Aboriginal community through disease and illness. Statistics show that the Indigenous Australians are the most underprivileged people currently in Australia, coping with the highest rates of unemployment, imprisonment, infant mortality, poor health and the incidence of preventable disease in Australian society. This is because for a long time, the aboriginal people were neglected and lacked tools of empowerment for them to develop (Baum, 2002).

Reports and documents with particular attention to Aboriginal women and children, thus supporting this ordeal have exhibited the backwardness nature of the aboriginals as well as a bleak future and ingrained unfeasible optimism for a better life. Critiques say that there is need for Aboriginal development strategies that discuss significant community based observations. A majority of the Aboriginal people living in Australia lives well below the poverty line, and their life expectancy is a lot lower than that of the average non-indigenous Australian. The general health status of these people is indeed much poorer than that the rest of the Australian population. In this state, the community cannot develop (Bell, 1996).

A person or a group of peoples' life expectancy refers to the predicted number of years they are expected to live. This is determined statistically by factors such as, General Health, living conditions and nutrition. For example the average life span/life expectancy for an aboriginal man living in Australia is 59 years and for woman it would be 65. This is a lot less compared to the non-indigenous Australians as the average man is predicted to live to 76 and a woman is predicted to live till 82 (Adams & Spratling, 2001).

There are many factors that play a role in the low life expectancy of indigenous Australians. One of these is the social and cultural values. Indigenous women are having children at a very young age and there is a lack of available services to support them and their children's health problems, and disease between the indigenous people is 20 times higher than non-indigenous. It is very hard for problems like this to be fixed because of health services like the aboriginal health service in Fitzroy, it has only four members of staff, one of which works part time, and another who visits once a week and they are treating over 500 children.

General preventable health conditions are becoming a cause of death amongst the aborigines for people with literacy issues or people who have a lack of access to transport as they cannot manage their problems well. An aboriginal patient who had untreated diabetes that was so severe that the doctors had to amputate his toes. Many aboriginal people who live like this in Australia are not noticed that's why it's hard for people to believe that the life expectancy for them is so low and a majority of them live below the poverty line. The non-indigenous population has a very small number of problems like the ones of the aboriginal people as they have easy access to doctors and needed information this can help explain the difference in their life expectancy (Con Goo, 2003).

General preventable health conditions are becoming a cause of death amongst the aborigines for people with literacy issues or people who have a lack of access to transport as they cannot manage their problems well. An aboriginal patient who had untreated diabetes that was so severe that the doctors had to amputate his toes. Many aboriginal people who live like this in Australia are not noticed that's why it's hard for people to believe that the life expectancy for them is so low and a majority of them live below the poverty line. The non-indigenous population has a very small number of problems like the ones of the aboriginal people as they have easy access to doctors and needed information this can help explain the difference in their life expectancy (Con Goo, 2003).

Poor living conditions and Economic problems further contribute to the poor health of Indigenous people, this means that some aboriginals are living in damp cockroach infested and overcrowded housing which causes a bad effect on their health. This poverty related stress on pregnant woman can cause them to have low birth weights meaning that seventeen percent of indigenous children are born under 2.5 kg; this is ten percent more than that of the non-indigenous babies. Many indigenous people do not own cars or have very limited transportation so they cannot travel to heath services. Children with a low birth weight and live in unhealthy living conditions means that they could live shorter lives.

To improve and develop the status of health of Australia's Indigenous populace the federal government needs to apportion more funds to health services as well as the improvement of the general conditions and standards of living. A way of empowering the aborigines of Australia is therefore needed as a way of solving their problems. Funding for this was initially refused because it had been redirected towards the baby boom, and there is a large denial of the crisis because it is not noticed in Australia. The government at one time put $140,000 into the Fitzroy aboriginal Health service because it was considered "seriously under-funded" but this was still $360,000 short of what was needed.

These sort of services need to be funded because there is a very small amount of them and they need to have the money to be able to support themselves in order to help people. Maybe if they had enough money to run these sorts of places well and help people the life expectancy of aboriginals would rise. The reasons for the large difference between the life expectancy of indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia, is due to their poorer living conditions and lack of needed services and funding. These problems will need to be addressed if the life expectancy and general health for Australian aboriginals is to rise to match that of a non-aboriginal. The indigenous people need to have the same access to services as a non-aboriginal person, how can this be done? This is the question that has remained in the minds of many people (Devitt, Hall & Tsey, 2001).

Australia over a period of time has been identified been with National Health Priority Areas. This was in response to the World Health Organization's global strategy, Health for All by the year 2000, which later became Health for all in the 21st Century. Seeking changes and improvement in the population's health trends, these areas were targeted. These areas include: cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control and mental health. In recent years, diabetes mellitus, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have been added to the priority areas (Dixon, 1989). Evidently each priority area has been linked to poor nutrition and physical activity practices. These mainly seem to affect the aboriginals in Australia.

As preventative action, a healthy lifestyle can contribute to decreased risks of illness and disease. A healthy individual is associated with a balanced lifestyle, consisting of a balanced diet in conjunction with regular physical activity. However, not many aboriginals are aware of all the benefits a healthy lifestyle can provide in assisting the prevention and cure of the priority areas, cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, diabetes mellitus, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. Thus action at both societal and individual levels should be implemented to better the nutrition and physical activity practices.

Cardiovascular health involves coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease. The major fundamental causal method of cardiovascular sickness is atherosclerosis, which is process characterized with abnormal build-ups of solidified fat, cholesterol as well as other substances materials in the inner inside layer of the blood arteries. It is very serious when it is found to affect the supply of blood to the heart (leading to angina or attacks to the heart) or to the entire brain. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare government site also states that major preventable risk factors of cardiovascular disease include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, insufficient physical activity, overweight and obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes and stress which has all along remained to be a great challenge to the aboriginals (Billings, 2000).

Synthesis of the International Heart Health Declarations' addresses recommendations of five international cardiovascular disease declarations formed as the basis of action. These include adopting core values, defining health goals, selecting strategies and developing capacity. As individuals it is important to adopt the correct attitude to a healthy lifestyle. These are measures taken to empower the aboriginals in developing themselves as a community.

A good balanced diet keeps positive nutrition at high levels allowing the individual keep at minimal risk of poor cardiovascular health. With less fatty build-ups the heart and blood flow is healthier and the body is happier. Simultaneously with increased attention on physical activity it will greater benefit one's health and decrease risk of disease. The demand of children's education and actions implemented could begin with parental enforcement. It could be as simple as limiting sedentary activities such as television, movies, videos and computer games to no more than two hours a day (Hunter, 1998).

Sports and activities that appeal to children should be encouraged through development with lessons or by joining teams. Encourage walking or riding bicycles rather than driving to your destination when possible. The use of stairs instead of lifts and escalators is another simple step instigating physical activity. This makes everyone healthy and productive; the far reaching results being community development.

Ensuring children's physical activities at school or in daycare is something we can help as a society. Volunteers take on groups to educate them physically and nutritionally. These services seem to be lacking among the aboriginals of Australia. A way of empowering them is by ensuring that they equally get access to such recreation facilities which will promote their well being health wise.

Statistics on Aboriginal health disclose most clearly the neglect as well as the racism from which these citizens have for a long time suffered. The European colonization brought new diseased, particularly leprosy, syphilis and also trachoma. From that time inequality, poor social circumstances and the vicious cycle of want and poverty including the failure of the government to offer reachable medical service have all together contributed to this condition. In modern times, the life expectancy of aboriginal is only about 50 years. The number of deaths of infants is no less than three times higher for these Aborigines than for non-aboriginals or the whites. The children of the Aboriginals have a high chance of suffering very serious disease than white children.

The effects of racial discrimination by the Europeans by assimilation, the stolen age band, Aboriginal Australian health, matters of education as well as law have not just been terrible and critical but genocidal as the confirmation here suggests. The Aborigines encounter problems in their effort for fairness of opportunity as well as toleration. Generations of the Europeans have tried to eliminate the Aboriginal people in Australia or to exclude them from the conventional society of Australia. The Aboriginal people have exposed considerable confrontation and consistency as well as laws introduced by the colonists in helping to create and safeguard the present situation of Aborigines.

There is a huge variety of projects presented to us on many different health factors in the aboriginals' society. It is therefore needed to try and engage them and make them more aware of factors that affect and influence different communities' approaches to health promotion. There are some health issues like Physical Health, Drugs and Health, Sexual Health, Social and Emotional Health and At Risk groups and Health which could be very helpful in empowering the aboriginals. As stated in a study conducted in 1996 by the Australian Burden of Disease (ABD) mental health, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption were among the leading causes for burden of disease.

The most often presented complaint/concern is Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's) and the lack of knowledge on safe sex practices and its importance to one's sexual health. For both these studies conducted there were at risk groups, with some health issues presenting to be more of a health issue amongst certain age brackets. It is evident from studies done that amongst the Australian society, there are a select number of health issues that need to be given more attention at a community level to try and decrease the incidence of detrimental and in some cases life threatening illnesses. It is for this purpose that the community development and empowerment process should have the aims of:

  • Demonstrating the underlying purpose of community approaches in health promotion
  • Recognize the importance of social change within the community over time
  • Show practical application in applying the principles of capacity building
  • Show understanding of how community based projects are developed
  • Understanding the importance and correlation between community organization and community development with regards to health promotion.

The following would be very instrumental approaches in the development process of the aboriginals (Freeman, Gillam, Shearin, & Pratt, 1997)

Community empowerment: - giving the aboriginals power over (dominance-direct power to control people's choices, exploitation-indirect-those who control capital have control over those who don't, hegemony-ability to dominate group to control actions and behaviors by intense persuasion), Power from within (value, sense of mastery, control over own life, resilience), Power with (the willingness of others to listen to our ideas) and Powerlessness (persons behavior cannot result in outcomes they want, sense of generalized distrust, self blame).

Partnerships: - Support used to establish programs, cannot function in a vacuum, and will be determined by the type of program hoping to be set up.

Community Resilience: - capacity of community potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure.

Social Capital: - building social ties and social cohesion amongst the aboriginals will be a source of great power to develop as a community.

Capacity building: - involves building infrastructure, problem solving capabilities and partnerships.

Community Development: - looks at the needs of the community as most important, aims to develop potential of community through self help and do things with the community not for them (Morrissey, 2003).

The aboriginals of Australia really need such a program because of the nature of their culture and orientation to life. It is characterized with bad life practices which could adversely affect their lives. The culture of the Aborigines represents the eldest culture of the human race that still lives in Australia and performs their culture. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that there does not exist the "aboriginal culture", because, precisely speaking, the Aborigines are not a uniformed tribe. The various Aboriginal tribes sometimes have different traditions and languages, in a sense a slightly different culture in each tribe. For instance, there are the Aborigines who lived and still live in the desert of Central Australia or those who inhabit the tropical North.

All those tribes speak their own separate dialect; they have their distinct religion and different social orders. Aborigines used to live as nomadic hunters and gatherers but with the arrival of the first settlers in 1788, their population began to shrink. That decrease of their population was caused by foreign diseases being brought to Australia but it was also a result of brutal conflicts between the settlers and the Aborigines.

Today many Aborigines have adapted the "white man's" way of living because of an aggressive policy. The Aborigines still try to keep parts of their traditional lifestyle; however, it is difficult to do so in the modern world. Nevertheless, many Aborigines who live in the Northern Territory kept most of their traditions because the Europeans arrived there comparatively late. Therefore, they still live among themselves and 60% of them still speak an indigenous language. First, Aborigines used to live nearby water supplies before they spread all over the country.

Once they populated several parts of Australia, they began to change their way of living and lived from then on in a nomadic way. That change of the living conditions was probably a reason of drastic climatic changes in certain times of the year. Life in the southeast and in the southwest was different from living in central Australia, the desert. The economy was dependent on the mobility of the groups. Therefore, storing nourishments was impossible and unnecessary. However, the mobility was not limited because it was possible to come in touch with other tribes in order to develop trade and to exchange cultural aspects with each other.

Aborigines were great hunters as well because they had good skills to build simple tools that enabled them to hunt in the harsh and unwelcoming Australian outback. Nonetheless, they never took more than they needed from the land, as the land was a sacred place for them; hence, they took care of natural resources. However, in case a tribe killed more animals than they could eat, they invited other tribes. This social cohesion within a tribe and with other tribes symbolized their strong connection to the land and their traditions (Rowley, Daniel, Skinner, Skinner, White, & O'Dea, 2000).

Aboriginal tribes usually divided themselves up in societies that were defined through a lineage on the mother's side or on the father's side. These families are called "local groups" because of the emphasis on the location and territory of the group. The antithesis to the tribe was the nuclear family. It was them who went hunting and gathering through an area but they were always open to come in touch with other tribes, for example for hunting purposes. The structure within a group was defined through knowledge or tasks. Therefore, some of the eldest men of a tribe were responsible for the land and for other fields there were, for instance, a law man or a medicine man. Due to those structures no one could ever talk for the group as a whole or for someone else, therefore, every person is an integral part of the tribe. From early childhood, the Aborigines are taught to accept their position in the tribe, meaning girls were encouraged to follow their mother and the boys learnt how to use tools, hunting strategies and of course how to hunt together with other tribes from the father. In order to hunt together with other tribes they must have had a good capability to learn new dialects quite well to use the specific vocabulary for hunting purposes.

These practices by the aboriginals could not enhance the practices of good health and thus it was very hard for them to develop. Such acts of the colonists of racism and neglect to the aboriginals deprived them the power to develop themselves. It is indeed a major challenge that the aboriginals are facing. They have little or lack knowledge and the freedom to engage in practice that would promote their health as well as their well being. Poor health in the community retards development and very little progress can be achieved in such circumstances.


Giving the community of the aboriginals a definition once again will do. A community in this case can be defined as a group of people who do not just live in the same area, but also share the same interests, experiences and often concerns about the area in which they live. Often when individuals have lived in a street or area for a long period of time they become familiar with each other and the issues surrounding them however issues arise amongst a community that need attention. Whether this is certain target groups needing specific activities or programs organized for them it is all achieved through the many different aspects of community development.

A key element for consideration of this topic, in particular, the aim and the wish is the concept of a process and an outcome in community development. While community development may have and achieve an aim of change for the better within a community, if a process has not been followed in achieving this aim that empowers the community to take collective responsibility for their day to day lives, then the wish of community development is unlikely to be achieved. Throughout the world in many communities, there are many different programs run by many different organizations at a community level that all have the same common goal of achieving community development through different aspects such as community empowerment, partnerships, community resilience, social capital and capacity building (Abbott, 1995).

The process of community development does not occur on its own but in conjunction with one or more of the previous aspects mentioned. For a program to be successful they must have funding, which comes from partnerships. From partnerships comes an increase in social capital, which increases capacity building. From capacity building comes an increased community resilience which leads to an increased community empowerment, whether it be power with or power from within. All these contribute to the process of community development (Rychetnik & Frommer, 2002).

This order of events in community development is a very good and practical idea. Having heard about the many different programs and how they all work on different levels to achieve the same goal of community development has gives a better understanding of it all as opposed to just reading about community development and empowerment through textbooks. To actually be able to hear and picture the different levels of community development and to hear about the many programs that are being organized to benefit people's health has really made it clear that this is an area of work that is very crucial to the well being and progress in any given community (Sherwood, 1999). It is therefore imperative that the aboriginals promote high standards of health as a community. Many and effective health programs have been a great source of power and strength for a community or any group of people that wants to develop. The efforts done in empowering communities through health programs are of great importance in ensuring the advancement and development of individuals and the community at large. The conservative nature of the aboriginals as a result of neglect and racism contributed a lot to the general backwardness of the community for a long period of time.


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