10 May 2004 at 1:05 pm
A book described as “a major contribution to cross-cultural understanding” was launched during the Health 2004 Conference in Melbourne last week.
Reading Doctors’ Writing: Race, politics and power in Indigenous health research 1870-1969 has been published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) through the Aboriginal Studies Press.
The book is a history of the first hundred years of health research about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – a history which the book’s author David Piers Thomas says still fuels the suspicion of researchers and research felt by Indigenous people today.
Dr Thomas says the way researchers write about Indigenous peoples in medical journals matters. These representations have influenced the way all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – think about Indigenous peoples and their health and illnesses.
He says medical research repeatedly labelled Aboriginal people as an inferior race. Their access to good health care was considered only minimally important because most doctors read, wrote and believed that the demise of the Aboriginal race was inevitable.
He says medical representations of Indigenous people as passive, powerless victims facilitated the denial of their chance to have a say in their own future.
The Chairperson of Darwin’s Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Pat Anderson, says the book makes a major contribution to cross-cultural understanding in Australia.
Anderson says the book shows how the culture of the medical men – and they were largely men – determined how they viewed Aboriginal people and their views made a major contribution to the way we have been viewed by Australians generally.
Dr Thomas said his experiences as a doctor in the Northern Territory had convinced him of the need for more, securely-funded Aboriginal community controlled health services.
The Indigenous program of Health 2004 aims to expand and build the partnerships needed in Australia and internationally to put Indigenous health on regional and global agendas.
AIATSIS is Australia’s premier institution for information about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Amongst other core functions, the Institute promotes scholarly, ethical community-based research and publishes quality research and writing about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the Aboriginal Studies Press.
If you would like to buy a copy of the book you can order through Aboriginal Studies Press in Canberra on 02 6246 1111. The purchase price is $29.95.