Status and determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

The strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples has sustained them through a history of colonisation that has affected their health. Improving the social and cultural determinants of health is a key part of work to improve health outcomes.

Current status

We acknowledge the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, who have prevailed despite facing a long history of colonisation, racism and discrimination, along with a loss of identity, language, culture and land.

This history has had a big impact:

  • The burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Rates of psychological distress and chronic diseases are higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • There are disparities across the social determinants of health, such as education, housing, employment and income.
  • Access to health services is reduced for various reasons, including cost and lack of accessible or culturally appropriate health services where and when they are needed.

People living in rural and remote areas also face difficulties accessing health care, especially specialist services, due to distance.

Read more about reports on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Holistic health and wellbeing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic way. It is not just about physical health and wellbeing, but also includes the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. This means that programs, policies and services need to move beyond physical and medical health and include the social determinants and cultural determinants of health.

Social and cultural determinants of health – the conditions that people are born into and live in – affect people’s health and wellbeing.

Social determinants of health

The social determinants of health include:

  • early childhood development
  • community and family safety
  • education and youth
  • employment and income
  • racism
  • housing
  • environment and infrastructure
  • interactions with government systems and services
  • law and justice
  • poverty
  • food security
  • experiences with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Cultural determinants of health

The cultural determinants of health are the protective factors that support good health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These include:

  • connection to country
  • kinship
  • knowledge and beliefs
  • language
  • self-determination
  • cultural expression.
Last updated: 
30 June 2021

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