Racism has significant impacts on the overall well-being of the individuals in a community (Taylor and Guerin 2019). This paper will evaluate the health status of the community before and after the invasion and impact of the assimilation policy on the community. The paper will also outline the impact of racism on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women, and children and present a personal reflection of initiatives that will be taken to limit the gap.
The health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is known to have been significant impacted by the European colonization (Das et al. 2018). To understand the impacts of colonization and health status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, it is critical to understand the health status of the indigenous groups before the European invasion. It is known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is closely linked with nature and environment and their health was dominated by mitigating needs through natural resources. The health of the individuals in the community was impacted by the medical practices that sought to seek meaningful explanations for the illness and to respond to it with family and community-centred practices (Fisher et al. 2019).
The concept of health in the Indigenous perspective is greater than the well-being of physical health. Health in the term of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population corresponds to the cultural, social and emotional well-being of the entire community in which every individual can achieve to his or her complete potential as a human and thereby bring overall wellness to the community (McDonald et al. 2018). The focus of the community is on healing through natural processes and well-being in the orientation of the entire community (Steffens et al. 2016). In the current scenario, the health status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has been significantly impacted by modern medicine and there exists a large gap in the healthcare where individuals from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population with increased burden of chronic health, higher mortality rates, and lower life expectancy (Fisher et al. 2019).
The assimilation policy of 1961 was applied to ensure that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia as it asserted that the Indigenous population could have same living standards as that of the non-indigenous population if it adopted the European regimens of livings and health (McDonald et al. 2018). The policy aims to provide the same privileges and rights to all the individuals in the community, eliminate the prejudices and develop equal opportunities. The policy failed to recognize the social and cultural security for the individuals (Jackson and Lee 2019).
The application of the assimilation policy has a significant impact on the overall well-being if the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (Arnold-Chamney and Perry 2019). The policy worked more based on exclusion than inclusion and resulted in significant sidelini ng of the well-being of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The impacts are seen even now with the increased discrepancy in the availment of the healthcare services by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population due to prevailing stigma and stereotypes. This also resulted in generational trauma in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and limited their access to healthcare services and reflected in terms of increased mortality rate, lower life expectancy, and increased burden of chronic diseases on the individuals.
Racism can be defined as a “systemic set of beliefs, attitudes and practices based on ethnic‐racial differences” (Macedo et al. 2020). Racism and social discrimination play an important role in determining the health and well-being of a community (Adair 2016). This is of even greater importance in consideration that systematic racism can give rise to generational trauma, promote stigma, and increase the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged communities (O'Neill 2019). The prevalent stigma and the racism in the Indigenous communities have had a significant impact on the physical as well as mental health of the individuals.
The mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in sports
Sport and play are integral components of the Mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The participation in sports like ball games is of prime importance as it includes community participation and also links with the cultural identity (O'Neill 2019). However, prevailing stigma and stereotypes limit the participation of the individuals from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (May et al. 2020). Several barriers associated with the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in the physical activities and sports have also been identified that limit their representation and participation (Cunneen 2018). The primary barrier that is associated with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in participation in sport is the lack of adequate programs and facilities along with seasonal restrictions. Lack of enabling environment also plays a crucial role (Cunneen 2018). Multiple reports that document incidences of racism and social stigmatization of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the sports and physical education teams discourage the young individuals to participate and facilitate the working in the teams (Edwards et al. 2019). This builds up on the trauma and significantly impacts the mental health of the participants as wells as on the non-participants (O'Neill 2019). This restricts involvement in the sports and hinders the representation. This also results in widening the gap and reach of the community towards services of sports and allied interests and thus renders them secluded. The impact on mental health due to racism in sports and physical activities is significant and can affect the overall well being of an individual. This may also result in affected performance in a team sport and eventually exclusion (May et al. 2020). Sports require team spirit and a collaborative effort. When a poor environment that has racism and prejudice is present, the play is impacted and serves as a barrier for the representation and overall involvement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the sports (May et al 2020).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: Racism and health of pregnant women
Most of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females experience healthy pregnancies and have babies at a younger age and bear more children than the non-Indigenous women of Australia (Edwards et al. 2019). Racism and stress are crucial components that impact the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women as well as that of the unborn child (Edwards et al. 2019). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experience racism and social stigma in different developmental periods that prevent them from doing daily activities due to fear of discrimination (Macedo et al. 2020). The experience of racism is known to increase the stress in the pregnancy and is known to impact the mental health of the mother as well as on the development of the future child. For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females, racism is experienced at the community level and affects the stress levels in the mothers (Edwards et al. 2019). It also impacts the sense of personal control in the women and affects the overall mental health and well-being of pregnant women. Racism also impacts the identity and the sense of belief in terms of existence and well being in an individual. It builds on the stigma and enhances the generational trauma as well as oppression. This impacts the mental well being of the mothers and also severely impacts the development of the infant with impacts seen on their cognitive and mental development (Macedo et al. 2020).
Impact of racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in primary school
Racial discrimination also has a significant impact on the mental health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the growing years and schooling age (Shepherd et al. 2017). This limits the children from attending the schools and generates a gap in the overall literacy in the population. The impact is dominantly seen at a younger age where the children are more vulnerable to racial remarks and face discrimination eventually resulting in their withdrawal from the schools. Racism experienced by children can be at the organizational level as well as at the interpersonal levels. Racial discrimination in the primary school children is also associated with impacted mental health, increased poverty, poor literacy rate, and increase in the crime rates in the community (Shepherd et al. 2017). The initial exposure at a young age in the primary schools also impacts the thinking and overall growth of an individual. The systematic oppression of the kids in the schooling years is most formative and significantly associated with dropouts, poor economic conditions, and enhanced susceptibility to the crime rates (May et al. 2020). The impact is visible on mental health in terms of increased vulnerability to withdrawal, depression, and other mental health issues. The neurological development of children who face racial discrimination in primary years is significantly impacted. This not only hampers their psychological well-being but also asserts impacts on the notions of identity, self-worth, and social well-being (Edward et al. 2019).
As a registered nurse, I think, my prime responsibility will be to acknowledge the existing gap. To understand the existing dynamics of racism and social inequality I will read and gather knowledge about the factors that impact the health status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to understand their health and care needs and deliver the best. I will also understand the importance of policies like closing the gap and ensure that they are applied in the best suitable way for the upliftment and betterment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This will help in the development of better opportunities for individuals and assist in the delivery of better care (Taylor and Guerin 2019). As a registered nurse, I will also develop cultural competence and participate in activities that can help me provide a social and cultural understanding of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Through this, I will ensure that I can provide culturally appropriate care and promote more inclusivity and comfort when caring for a patient who belongs to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I will also assure that I take assistance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Liaison officer in eth clinical facilities to help me when taking care of the patient from the Indigenous backgrounds to ensure highest quality care. As a registered nurse, I will also abide by the code of conduct established by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to provide ethically competent and safe care to the patients (Taylor and Guerin 2019). I will also promote health literacy and communicate with the patients to reduce the existing gap and to promote the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through rigorous efforts. I will also ensure that I maintain respect and communication to develop a rapport with the patients. To understand their cultural and social beliefs, I will develop an accepting attitude in my provision of care and enable the free exchange of ideas to make patients feel comfortable and open about the expression of their feelings (May et al. 2020). I will also encourage community care for impact at a greater level to limit the health gaps that exist between the Non-Indigenous and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Therefore, a registered nurse, I will make sure to promote health to minimize the gap between the non-indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and practice competent care to promote inclusive care and provide better care experiences to the patients of the community (Steffens et al. 2016). As a registered nurse, I will also educate the patients and the families to limit the prevailing stigma and promote community-oriented care This will enhance community participation towards care and encourage holistic care for the patients as well as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals.
This paper presents a brief discussion on the health status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in context with the assimilation policy and analyses the impact of racism on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women, and children. The paper is also inclusive of a succinct personal reflection about the roles and responsibilities of the registered nurse in limiting the existing gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous population of Australia.
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