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Australian health system not designed for Indigenous people

The Australian hospital system, which was based on a British model, is not fully catering to the needs of the Indigenous community.

Professor Dennis McDermott from Flinders University in Adelaide says a recent study in Adelaide, called ‘Our own backyard’, found that two thirds of Aboriginal people experienced institutional racism, and two thirds of those knew it was making them sick.

He says the health system is culturally unsafe and is deterring Indigenous people from seeking help.

“In the health system there are a lot of unconscious negative stereotypes and attitudes carried by health professionals,” Professor McDermott said.

“When an Aboriginal person goes into a service and picks up these attitudes they won’t come back, as the service is culturally unsafe and people are very aware of racist attitudes so it gets in the way of access to health care.

“Also if you are an Aboriginal person and go to hospital for particular procedures, the chance of you getting those procedures is lower than for non-Aboriginal people, and that’s systematic racism.

Melissa Walker from Queensland University of Technology says Indigenous people have different world views, so things need to be different.

“I know people talk about equity and treating everyone the same, that’s a big flavour of what Australia has but sometimes that can inhibit minority cultures,” Ms Walker said.

“If you see everyone the same, you are seeing everyone the same as you, and if you are a non-Indigenous institution you’re assuming we have the same needs, so that’s institutional racism.

“It’s not that people are being racist, the system itself isn’t created for us and doesn’t support our ways of thinking or needs as well as it could.

“We are often happy, loud, and hospital systems don’t like large groups of happy, loud people, particularly in wards, which can be a problem during visiting hours.

“If it was created for my culture it would have these big lounges and food would come for everyone not just for the patient.”

This article is also available at the INIKHD website, http://inihkd2012.com/?p=737.

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