Social Determinants of Health

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3 The Social, Cultural and Historical Context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians PatDudgeon,MichaelWright,YinParadies, DarrenGarveyandIainWalker OVERVIEW To understand the contemporary life of Indigenous Australians, a historical and cultural background is essential. This chapter sets the context for further discussions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues related to their social and emotional wellbeing and mental health. The history of colonisation is addressed, the subsequent devastation of Indigenous Australians, and their resilience and struggle to claim equality and cultural recognition, and to shape the present. Indigenous Australia is made up of two cultural…show more content…
Aboriginal people built semi-permanent dwellings; as a nomadic society emphasis was on relationships to family, group and country rather than the development of an agrarian society. Being semi-nomadic meant that Aboriginal people were also relatively nonmaterialistic. Greater emphasis was placed on the social, religious and spiritual activities. The environment was controlled by spiritual rather than physical means and religion was deeply tied to country (Berndt & Berndt, 1992; Broome, 1994). According to Aboriginal beliefs, the physical environment of each local area was created and shaped by the actions of spiritual ancestors who travelled across the landscape. Living and non-living things existed as a consequence of the actions of the Dreaming ancestors. Helen Milroy (HREOC, 2008) speaks about the importance of land as part of the Dreaming: We are part of the Dreaming. We have been in the Dreaming for a long time before we are born on this earth and we will return to this vast landscape at the end of our days. It provides for us during our time on earth, a place to heal, to restore purpose and hope, and to continue our destiny. (p. 414) Land is fundamental to Indigenous people, both individually and collectively. Concepts of Indigenous land ownership were and are different from European legal systems. Boundaries were fixed and validated by the Dreaming creation stories.
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