Department of Health

Victorian Aboriginal population – a snapshot

  • 09 September 2015
  • Duration: 4:07
  • Today we meet on the lands of the Kulin nation, a nation that has a proud and strong heritage.

    The Kulin Nation is just one of many Aboriginal communities in Victoria. Our mob are spread far and wide across the state – we're coastal people, river people, desert people and bush people. Half of us live in the cities and the other half out in rural areas. But there's one thing that binds us, and that's our connection to our land and culture.

    Our culture has broadened and grown rich in our time on this land. A culture that is vibrant and living. We have lived in Victoria for 50,000 years and our people form the longest continuous living cultural tradition in the world. Though it has not been without its challenges.

    Our recent past has been one of struggle and survival.

    Between European settlement and 1853 our population was decimated.

    With introduced European diseases like smallpox, massacres, the denial of our right to speak our languages and perform traditional ceremonies and the forced relocation of our men, women and children, our population reduced from 60,000 to 2,000. A lot of people still assume Aboriginal people live up in the centre and top end of Australia. But we're here – not all of us have dark skin and we don't make up a large part of the population, but we're here.

    We excel in a broad range of professions including sport, the arts, business and politics. Although we have our successes we slip through the cracks on a number of fronts. We're less likely to finish school, attend university and be employed and our health is much poorer, with significantly higher prevalence of depression and anxiety, cancer, stroke and asthma. This means we die much younger than non-Aboriginal Victorians.

    But it's something that can be fixed.

    Our aunties, our uncles, our elders who hold our community together, our families that support us, our brothers and sisters have worked hard to fix these inequalities.

    We established the first Victorian Aboriginal health service in Fitzroy in 1973. Since then 24 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations have been set up across Victoria. But we know that it's by working together with your mob that we can really make a difference. We have had to learn to adapt, survive and protect our culture, our stories and our people. Today, we number 38,000 and we're growing. And we've got more and more young people – in fact, half of us are under 18.

    By 2030 the government expects my grandchildren to live as long as their non-Aboriginal friends. Aboriginal health is my responsibility, it's your responsibility, it's everyone's responsibility.

Jacqui Burns describes her role as the only Aboriginal staffperson at Plenty Valley Community Health and the range of programs the organisation has developed to support the local Aboriginal community.

Reviewed 09 September 2015

Health.vic

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