The position of indigenous Australians was historically deprived and, unfortunately, nowadays the gap between this category of Australian population and the rest of the society is still quite significant. This is why it is still possible to speak about certain discrimination of the aboriginal population of Australia and its deprived position. Obviously, it is hardly possible to speak about equality of indigenous Australians and other Australians and this inequality may be observed in different fields: education, employment, etc. However, particularly striking the inequality remains in the field of health care and this is an extremely serious problem Australia currently faces because the low level of health care provided for indigenous people threatens the future of the local community and, thus, the survival of descendants of the first inhabitants of the country.
On analyzing the current position of indigenous population of Australia and health care system of the country, it is possible to estimate that the latter does not fully cover the needs of aboriginal people and there are different factors contributing to the existing inequality between this category of people and the rest of Australian society that actually enjoys the most advanced services and technologies applied in the national health care system.
However, before speaking about the main inequalities that contribute to the dramatic gap between indigenous and other Australians, it is necessary to briefly discuss the current situation. First of all, it should be said that the difference in the quality of life of indigenous and other Australians is really striking often due to the dramatic difference in access to health services and their quality. In this respect, it is worthy to point out that in 1998-2001 the life expectancy of an average indigenous Australian constituted 21 years less for males and 20 years less for females than that of an average Australian (Edwards et al. 2003). Another example of a significantly worse position of indigenous Australians is the fact that the infant mortality rate among this category is for time that of average Australians (Edwards et al. 2004).
Obviously, such a gap could not be eliminated in one year and the solution of this problem needs a complex of measures that may take years to improve the situation. At the same time, it is evident that the main cause of such a striking difference is low health care services provided for this category of people.
Moreover, specialists (Briggs, Brown, Edwards) emphasize that all social categories of indigenous Australians, are affected by this problem and practically all aboriginal Australians are deprived of a possibility to receive the health services of the same quality as the rest of Australian society. In fact, poor health care services provided for indigenous population of Australia remain one of the key issues that provokes numerous discussions concerning their discrimination by other Australians.
On the other hand, when the problem is analyzed in depth, it seems to be still unclear what actually the real cause of such a deprived position of indigenous population of Australia is, especially in the field of health care. In order to clarify the situation, it is necessary to analyze the main structural inequalities that currently exist in Australian health care system in relation to indigenous Australians and other Australians.
Among the variety of existing inequalities, it is primarily necessary to single out the discrimination of indigenous population which produced a dramatic impact on the historical development of the community and its position in Australian society. To put it more precisely, it should be said that indigenous Australians were traditionally deprived and had little or no access to health services other Australians had. Naturally, the only way out they could find was to refer to their traditional methods of health care that obviously lacked the knowledge and technologies other Australians possessed. Nowadays, it is not surprising that indigenous people have poorer health services than other Australians because historically they remain in the rearguard of the benefits of modern technologies and services.
At the same time, it is important to realize the fact that in such a situation it is very difficult for indigenous Australians to catch other Australians up because often they simply cannot afford the basic conditions which they have to fulfill in order to receive health care services comparable to those that other Australians receive. To a significant extent, this is the result of another serious inequality between indigenous and other Australians – the inequality of the level of income. At first glance, it seems to be quite strange that the level of income play such an important role nowadays when the government and non-profit organizations are so concerned about the position of indigenous Australians and attempt to develop different programs which target at the improvement of the quality of health care services among this category of people.
Unfortunately, the real situation is really different from a stereotyped view on indigenous people as the marginal that receive state funding not because of their deprived position but because of being indigenous. Such a view is obviously erroneous and absolutely unacceptable since, in addition to really existing serious gap between indigenous and other Australians in the level of income, this factor negatively influences the quality and level of health care services provided for this part of Australian population. In fact, lacking financial resources, aboriginal people cannot fully cover the existing insurance system and, consequently, their treatment cannot be fully paid by indigenous Australians without state or non-profit organizations support. Consequently, they turn to be constantly dependent on subsidiary funding from the part of the state or aid of non-profit organizations and cannot support their own health care independently because they do not simply have sufficient level of income.
Furthermore, the lower level of income and low social position of indigenous people engenders a variety of other closely related problems which contribute to the existing inequality in health care services. For instance, it is possible to mention the existing difference in educational level between indigenous and other Australians. Naturally, it is possible to estimate that it has no direct impact on the level of health services but still it is necessary to remember that low educational level deprives indigenous people of a possibility to have access to wide knowledge about basics of healthy way of life and even elementary hygienic norms. As a result, poor education naturally deteriorates their health for indigenous Australians cannot properly react on the health problems they have because they simply lack the knowledge about the functioning of human organism and basic rules of keeping healthy lifestyle.
By the way, traditional lifestyle and cultural habits and traditions also play an extremely important role in the quality of healthcare services and increase the inequality between indigenous and other Australians. In fact, to a significant extent it is the result of the poor education of indigenous people and their constantly deprived position in Australian society that resulted in their cultural isolation from the rest of the society. Not surprisingly that they kept their own traditions, including their traditional ways of treatment and healing instead of enjoying the benefits of the modern health care services. Naturally, the poor social position, low educational level and similar factors simply forces them to prefer rather the traditional indigenous ways of treatment than the medical aid from the part of professional doctors but traditions also play an extremely important role. For instance, often indigenous Australians prefer traditional national ways of treatment only because it is a part of their culture and any other medical services may be viewed as absolutely hostile or culturally unacceptable for them.
In fact, the problems mentioned above are typical for all indigenous Australians living in different areas, including urban ones. However, there is another very important factor that creates a dramatic gap between indigenous Australians and other Australians in health care services and this is the areas where they live. In fact, the vast majority of indigenous Australians live in remote areas and, as a rule, they cannot simply physically have access to modern health care services. Moreover, there is an obvious lack of the professional medical personnel in the remote areas populated by indigenous Australians. As a result, they actually have little choice of health care services and consequently, health care services in these areas are of an extremely low quality.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that nowadays the inequality of health care services between indigenous Australians and other Australians is still very significant and there is a variety of factors that contribute to the poor health care of aboriginal people in Australia. Obviously, the general inequality constitutes of a number of components, including historical discrimination of Indigenous people, their low level of income and education, cultural peculiarities and lifestyle. Naturally, these conditions create a serious gap distancing indigenous people not only geographically from other Australians but also from the benefits of the modern health care system of Australia that simply cannot cover the full territory of the country, including remote areas populated by aboriginal people. This is why, these inequalities keep health care services provided for indigenous Australians extremely poor compared to the rest of the society.
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