Aboriginal kangaroo2

Reflect and Recognise: we can make a difference

This week is National Reconciliation Week (NRW), and it’s a time for all of us to reflect and to recognise the traditional owners and custodians of this land called Australia.  Reconciliation encourages all of us to play a part in building stronger relationships between all Australians.

Contrary to popular belief, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 1.4 times more likely to abstain from drinking alcohol than other Australians. On the other hand, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians that do drink are about 1.5 times more likely to drink alcohol at risky levels.

Alcohol and drug related harms occur across Australian society, but we know that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience a high level of these harms as a consequence of generational trauma. Following dispossession of culture, language, land, traditional roles and food sources, as well as disruption of traditional family structures and networks, alcohol and other drugs have been used to relieve inter-generational pain. More broadly, post-colonisation history has shaped patterns of alcohol and drug use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through access to, and promotion of, these substances.

Throughout the centuries Aboriginal Australians have been traumatised by their experience of being invaded, dispossessed, unrecognised and misused. Reconciliation is a time for us to not only consider that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples be recognised in the constitution but also to recognise their worth and to participate in the healing process.

Happy indiginous women

In 2008 the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a speech on behalf of all Australians apologising for the wrongs of the past.  Whilst this moved many and has marked a shift in thinking and a commitment to action there is more we can do to reduce the health gap and increase our own understanding.

Supporting reconciliation means working to understand why there is the current division and inequality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians and undertaking to address these issues.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people draw strength from a range of factors such as connectedness to family, culture and identity. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, health is not just about the physical wellbeing of the individual, but also the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community.

Take time this week to reflect, attend an event and learn more about the values and customs of the Aboriginal communities in your area.

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