February 17, 1991

Article at The Observer

‘Damning’ report on health of Aborigines

The Observer


AUSTRALIA’S native Aborigines die some 20 years younger than white Australians and have more than double the rate of heart disease, a ‘damning’ health study has shown.

Canberra’s Australian Institute of Health reports in tomorrow’s issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, that Aboriginal males have depending where they live a life expectancy of between 53 and 61 years. Aboriginal women range from 58 to 65 years.

This compares with the life expectancy for other Australians of 73 years for men and 79 years for women. Aborigines make up 1.4 per cent of Australia’s 17 million population.

Dr Neil Thomson of the institute said in Canberra that while infant mortality had improved, the life opportunity for Aborigines was ‘quite dismal’.

‘The whole thing is incredibly damning,’ he added. His report added that Aboriginal deaths from circulatory diseases are on average 2.4 times higher than for whites, and from respiratory ailments some 6.7 times higher.

Deaths from car accidents, falls, drownings and homicides were 3.5 to 4.3 times higher than for whites.

The report adds that there are a disproportionate number of Aboriginal deaths in the 25 to 44-year-old age group.

‘You would have to go back to the turn of the century to find life expectancies this low (among white Australians),’ Dr Thomson said.