Health inequalities today are due to increased socio-economic, political, and racial inequalities in the communities of Australia. These inequalities lead to the inability of indigenous people to receive appropriate medical services. Compared to the rest of the population, Aboriginal Australians are disadvantaged, and this limitation is exacerbated for the locals who live in rural regions. These disadvantages are especially visible among colonized Aboriginal Mutitjulu peoples.
Mutitjulu as an Aboriginal Community
Mutitjulu is a small Aboriginal Australian community in the north of Australia. Among the Mutitjulu population, which constitutes 399 people, 360 of them are aboriginals (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). For a long time, Mutitjulu, like many Aboriginal communities, has experienced problems with poor housing, poor education, overcrowding, and poverty. The degree of poverty is a proxy for a low level of health and the level of education is correlated with health and socioeconomic status (Calma, Dudgeon, & Bray, 2017). In addition, substance abuse is a manifestation of low education along with the insufficient socioeconomic status of the community. Poor health and financial adversity inherent to the community can therefore result in chronic illnesses, depression, and heart problems, resulting in aggression and similar problems within the community, which lowers life expectancy and overall health.
Inaccessible Healthcare for Indigenous Individuals
For Indigenous individuals living in Mutitjulu, healthcare should not solely be offered, but also be accessible. This suggests that people need to be “trauma-informed”, culturally safe, and free from racism (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, p.5, 2018). Various moments of exclusion and discrimination have led to and still affect Aboriginal individuals’ physical and mental state outcomes (Kairuz et al., 2020). Mental state service providers should acknowledge the formation of Australia and its current system and its impacts to know Aboriginal mental health, social, and emotional welfare these days.
This long-standing and continuous occurrence is now recognized as causing ‘intergenerational trauma,’ in which the first generation’s painful recollections are handed down from generation to generation (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, p.4, 2018). Intergenerational trauma can present itself in a spectrum of ailments of mental health problems, socio-emotional wellness, and negative behaviors, such as anxiety disorder, panic, sleep disruption, extreme obesity, smoking, illicit substance use, and alcoholism.
Mental Health Problems
Severe mental diseases and psychological problems linked to social poverty are more common among Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal People residing outside of urban areas have a higher barrier to receiving proper healthcare. Those who live in rural Aboriginal Australia, compared to urban counterparts, are not exempt from such adversity — which is frequently unremitting. The mental and physiological issues that arise as a consequence are exacerbated by mental health interventions that are tightly focused and insufficient, with children being especially susceptible.
Psychological Health Data
There is a scarcity of trustworthy data about psychological health. However, information from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that Indigenous people are hospitalized at 2.6 times the speed of their non-Indigenous counterparts for emotional and behavioral disorders (Day et al., 2021). Admissions for mental illnesses were twice as high as non-Indigenous hospitalizations from 2002–2003 to 2003–2004, as were admissions for accidents and injuries, with young women being the most susceptible (Hunter, 2007). Therefore, aboriginal people require additional attention from medical care providers.
Aboriginal health in remote areas has been defined as misfortunate and vague by medical observers due to the high level of unrecognized and untreated illness and the difficulty that aboriginal people experience in obtaining help. There is proper healthcare in remote Indigenous communities, but 30–50% of those residents cannot access these services, according to the 1999 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (Hunter, 2007). Health professionals working in Indigenous communities are even more limited, especially at higher professional levels – a distribution shaped like a pear, leaning toward jobs with the smallest education and accountability. Despite growing attention on developing the health workforce among Indigenous peoples, there have been no significant gains due to basic educational disadvantages, particularly among students from distant regions.
Development of the Mental Health Workforce
Historically, there have been uncertainties and pressures associated with the development of the mental health workforce. Treatment-oriented programs are offered mostly through State Health Departments. Commonwealth funding, however, is available for social and emotional wellbeing models. The social and Emotional Well Being Framework, which recognizes five important strategic ways, has helped reduce tensions moderately (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, 2018). This might be implemented through an increasing focus on children, youth, families, and communities, establishing community-controlled services, improving mental health care admittance, and improving condition, data, and analysis.
The communities of Mutitjulu have immense and unmet needs, as does every Australian living in these areas. Among the negative factors are important issues such as transportation, medication literacy, compliance, and the allocation of resources based on needs, even in mainstream treatment approaches (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, 2018). Innovative and flexible approaches are required to provide adequate care for those with severe mental diseases (Kilian & Williamson, 2018). For example, Indigenous mental health workers should be developed in remote settings, and traditional healers should be included in holistic health approaches.
Mental Health Services for Indigenous Individuals
Nevertheless, the definition of roles and accreditation for Indigenous health workers are yet to be determined as there is no official standardization of training. The role of mainstream mental health practitioners will remain important, as will the need for different approaches – from the use of outreach services to telemedicine – that should be considered. As a gold standard, individuals in Indigenous mental health should be able to obtain mental health services of the same condition, predictability, sustainability, and preparation of practitioners that are available to urban Australians (Lima et al., 2018). Improved mental health services in the community should pay special attention to non-clinical needs. Australian mental health consumers should expect equitable representation of Indigenous practitioners at all levels of practice regardless of whether those working in these positions are Indigenous or not.
Nevertheless, there is an increasing recognition that healthcare providers must consider and react effectively to particular traumas of the residents to obtain optimal results. This involves offering assistance in a secure environment and allowing those who have been impacted by trauma to reclaim control and independence. Furthermore, a distress service is aware of the consequences on employees who are subjected to stress and, if Indigenous, might have experienced trauma in their past or relatives’ past as well (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, 2018). Intergenerational trauma affects not just individuals but groups and communities overall, and the care system must recognize this. All services provided to Aboriginal people strive to be trauma-informed, meaning they strive to recognize the various ways that unsolved stress might emerge (for example, in mental health difficulties, addictions, or aggression) and respond appropriately.
Culture has a critical role in promoting perseverance, healthy social and emotional wellness, excellent psychological health, and a free alcohol and drug addiction lifestyle. In the face of constant transition, hardship, and misfortune, culture is a pillar of strength, character, organization, and consistency, as well as a deterrent to suicide (Williamson et al., 2018). Notwithstanding the effect of continuous imperialism, racism, and destructive policies that undermine Aboriginal communities’ health, acknowledging the good elements of Aboriginal culture and knowledge promotes healing (Smith et al.,2021). According to a growing body of data, healing programs are an efficient method to treat the impacts of intergenerational trauma in this environment.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
The importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services might be emphasized because Indigenous people express a strong preference for its utilization, resulting in improved healthcare coverage and response to medication regimens. If Congress can provide completely appropriate mental health treatments as holistic health care than stand-alone, specialty, and specific services as an ACCHS, it will be easier to cure an individual (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, 2018). Congress has established three ways to approach services of mental health which combine sociocultural support, medical aid, and mental therapy.
This combined method is maintained by employing a single Clinical data system that every professional can use, including GPs, psychiatrists, social staff, and Aboriginal medical examiners. All team members treating a patient will obtain the patient’s medical history; thus, there’s a stable method of treating patients. Three forms of preliminary health care service are possible, including a holistic approach where an entire individual is treated, recognizing that there are common causes of weak physical, and mental health and that these conditions are interconnected.
The mental health needs of patients are also taken care of, thereby preventing their physical health from being neglected. Seriously mentally ill individuals have a greater threat of premature death from untreated conditions such as heart diseases or diabetes than from mental conditions. With the help of this healthcare method, patients will have their psychological state and physical urges resolved in one appointment.
Hence, mental disorders are common among Aboriginal Australians who live in rural and remote regions. Although substantial governmental equity investments are required to address the provoking factors, providing equal access to effective mental health services is of biggest priority. Indigenous people need more than access to mental health promotion, long-term care, and other interventions to develop effective services. Remote Indigenous Australians experience an excess burden of mental disorders and emotional distress, regardless of how improved services are provided. There is also a need for multidisciplinary, health-affirming approaches to be attuned to the circumstances and priorities of remote communities, and initiatives that empower the latter, single individuals and their families.
Census QuickStats: Mutitjulu – Uluru. (2016). Australian Bureau of Statistics. Web.
Calma, T., Dudgeon, P., & Bray, A. (2017). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing and mental health. Australian Psychologist, 52(4), 255-260.
Day, A., Casey, S., Baird, M., Geia, L., & Wanganeen, R. (2021). Evaluation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Program. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 45(1), 46-52.
Inquiry into the accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia. (2018). Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. Web.
Hunter, E. (2007). Disadvantage and discontent: A review of issues relevant to the mental health of rural and remote Indigenous Australians. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 15(2), 88-93.
Smith, P., Rice, K., Usher, K., & Schutte, N. (2021). Cultural responsiveness for mental health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. Australian Psychologist, 1-12.
Kairuz, C. A., Casanelia, L. M., Bennett-Brook, K., Coombes, J., & Yadav, U. N. (2020). Impact of racism and discrimination on the physical and mental health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in Australia: a protocol for a scoping review. Systematic reviews, 9(1), 1-6.
Kilian, A., & Williamson, A. (2018). What is known about pathways to mental health care for Australian Aboriginal young people?: a narrative review. International Journal for Equity in Health, 17(1), 1-9.
Lima, F., Shepherd, C., Wong, J., O’Donnell, M., & Marriott, R. (2019). Trends in mental health related contacts among mothers of Aboriginal children in Western Australia (1990–2013): a linked data population-based cohort study of over 40 000 children. BMJ Open, 9(7), 1-9.
Williamson, A., Skinner, A., Falster, K., Clapham, K., Eades, S. J., & Banks, E. (2018). Mental health-related emergency department presentations and hospital admissions in a cohort of urban Aboriginal children and adolescents in New South Wales, Australia. BMJ Open, 8(11), 1-10.