Report Exposes Aboriginal Youth Health Issues
1 November 2018 at 8:37 am
Young Indigenous people are mostly happy and in good health, a report says, but they still face far greater challenges to their physical and mental wellbeing than their non-indigenous counterparts.
The report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Wednesday, provides a brief snapshot of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, wellbeing, medical access, education and employment rates over a number of years.
It found 63 per cent of Indigenous people aged between 10 and 24 rated their health as excellent or very good in 2014 and 2015, and 76 per cent aged 15 to 24 said they felt happy all or most of the time.
During the same time period however, one in three, or 33 per cent reported experiencing high levels of psychological distress, and although the death rate for young Indigenous people has decreased over the past ten years, 83 per cent of those deaths were avoidable.
“This includes deaths from suicides, transport accidents and assault,” the report said.
Trevor Pearce, acting CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), told Pro Bono News it was pleasing to see good results reported by young people in the report, but that hard work was still needed.
“In Victoria, the median age of Aboriginal people is 23, compared with 37 years old for non-Aboriginal Victorians,” Pearce said.
“So it’s clear getting things right for our younger people is critically important as it will have a huge impact.”
AIHW spokesperson, Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, said although results were generally positive, young people were not as healthy as they could be.
“Racism, mental health, injuries and experiences of violence were areas of concern,” Al-Yaman said.
She also said it was concerning that in 2016, 42 per cent of those aged 20 – 24 were not engaged in education, employment or training, and it was the leading cause of personal stress.
Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, said it was clear there was a lot of work to do in terms of health prevention programs.
Wyatt said having data like this available was vital to inform policy and would inform the Closing the Gap refresh.
“It’s helping us to understand what is working well and where we need to focus our energies, so all young First Australians can reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing,” Wyatt said.
Both Pearce and Wyatt said it was positive 61 per cent of young people said they had a connection to country, and 69 per cent said they were involved in cultural events in the previous 12 months.
Pearce said it was critical future generations remained connected as Aboriginal citizens.
“Culture helps our kids grow up strong and keeps them resilient… empowering families and communities to do that is something that should be funded,” he said.
Pearce said issues Aboriginal children were facing, such as over-representation in the justice system, and pathways to higher education, should be areas to focus on to improve lives.
“If we get all these things right we will continue to see improvement in the results reported by our young people and move towards not just Closing the Gap, but eliminating it all together,” he said.
The snapshot was launched at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Members Conference and Annual General Meeting, with a more comprehensive summary due to be released next month.