In recent years, Aboriginal health outcomes have improved in some areas.
In particular, rates of childhood immunisation for Victorian Aboriginal children aged five-years-old are now slightly higher than all Victorian five-year-olds (96.73 per cent of Victorian Aboriginal five-year-olds compared with 95.25 per cent of all Victorian five-year-olds).
However, despite some gains, Aboriginal Victorians continue to experience racism and discrimination that profoundly affects their health and wellbeing (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a life-expectancy approximately 10 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
In addition, they disproportionately experience several negative social indicators that also affect health. These and other factors contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians having a median age of 23 years – compared with 37 years for all Victorians (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017).
Some key points about Aboriginal Victorians’ health, wellbeing and safety include the following:
- Almost twice as many babies of Victorian Aboriginal mothers are born with a low birthweight compared with those of non-Aboriginal mothers.
- Victorian Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Aboriginal women.
- Aboriginal children are more than eight times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be the subject of a child protection substantiation in Victoria.
- Aboriginal Victorians are four times more likely to be homeless than non-Aboriginal Victorians.
- Tobacco use by Aboriginal Victorians aged over 18 years is more than three times the rate of non-Aboriginal people.
- Aboriginal Victorians present at emergency departments for alcohol-related causes at more than four times the rate of other Victorians.
- Aboriginal Victorians are approximately three times more likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress than other Victorians.
- Rates of diabetes are three times higher in Aboriginal Victorians than non-Aboriginal Victorians.
- Aboriginal children in Victoria have 1.6 times more decayed tooth surfaces than non-Aboriginal children.
- Dementia is more common among Aboriginal older people and occurs at a younger age than for non-Aboriginal Victorians (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
The Victorian Government is working with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to address these ongoing health disparities. Korin Korin Balit-Djak: the Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–27 commits the Victorian Government to achieving the best health, wellbeing and safety for Aboriginal Victorians (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
Korin Korin Balit-Djak explicitly states that self-determination is the only policy approach that has produced effective and sustainable outcomes for Indigenous peoples according to international and Australian evidence (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
Victoria aims to increase Aboriginal involvement in leadership and strategic government decision making, as well as prioritising funding to Aboriginal organisations, including Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
It also seeks to further reform the health and human services sector to eliminate racism and increase recruitment and retention of the Aboriginal workforce (Department of Health and Human Services 2017).
At the state level, the Victorian Government is establishing Australia’s first Treaty with Aboriginal Victorians – a process that has been underway since February 2016 (Aboriginal Victoria 2018).
This treaty will support the realisation of Korin Korin Balit-Djak’s underlying principle of Aboriginal self-determination.
It will build on the work and activities currently underway by strengthening governance structures and enhancing accountability to improve Aboriginal health outcomes across Victoria.
Find out more
Aboriginal Victoria 2018, What is a treaty? State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016, ABS, Canberra.
Department of Health and Human Services 2017, Korin Korin Balit-Djak Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–27, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Reviewed 23 October 2023