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Aborigines Century Behind the Health of Colonizers, WHO Report

In a stinging commentary on the concerns of successive Australian governments, a report commissioned by the World Health Organisation says //that the health of aborigines lags an appalling one century behind that of the settlers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have significantly worse outcomes than their fellow countrymen on every indicator of health.

In New Zealand, while inequality exists between Maori and non-Maori the gaps were fewer, smaller and closing, it said.

Indigenous Australians or Aborigines are the first human inhabitants of the Australian continent and its nearby islands. The term includes both the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal People, who, together make up about 2.5% of Australia's population.

The latter term is usually used to refer to those who live in mainland Australia, Tasmania, and some of the other adjacent islands. The Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous Australians who live in the Torres Strait Islands between Australia and New Guinea. They are generally considered to be a distinct ethnic group.

The new report points out, "Leprosy, rheumatic heart disease and tuberculosis haven't been experienced in white populations for decades but they are still problems for some indigenous communities.

"On many indicators, our health now remains unacceptably lower and at levels experienced nearly a century ago by our non-indigenous peers."

At the root of the problem is the Commonwealth's failure to acknowledge its role in the inequality, according to the report which will be presented at the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Indigenous Health meeting in Adelaide.

The authors of the report said public acceptance of the stance that colonisation stripped Aboriginal people of their rights is needed before they can move forward.

The paper, to be presented in Geneva in June, includes life expectancy as the strongest indicat or of poor health, with Aborigines almost 20 years behind other Australians.

There was also greater levels of ill health, which led to higher levels of disability, lower quality of life and high rates dangerous behaviour such as smoking and substance abuse.

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