This review provides an overview of health issues facing the Indigenous offender population, including some of the social and historical factors relevant to Indigenous health and incarceration.
In doing so, it is important to first understand how Indigenous people conceptualise health. Health as it is understood in western society is a fairly discrete category, which differs from the traditional Indigenous perspective of health as holistic. This is made explicit in the 1989 National Aboriginal health strategy that states ‘health to Aboriginal peoples is a matter of determining all aspects of their life, including control over their physical environment, of dignity, of community self-esteem, and of justice’. For this reason, considering health in a justice context is of particular relevance to Indigenous people, as the restrictions imposed upon offenders represent a threat to individual and community health.
Some of the sources referred to in this review originally used only the term Aboriginal, even though it is evident that in many, if not most, cases the reporting did not differentiate between Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander people. Population figures reveal that substantial numbers of Torres Strait Islanders or people of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent live in all jurisdictions, except the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Therefore, the term Indigenous has been used throughout this review to refer to both the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander populations.
This review is largely structured under key topic headings, such as chronic disease or the social determinants of health. Much of the general information about offenders refers to both men and women, and, in some instances, to some juveniles, but specific sections are also devoted to women and juveniles.
Authors: Jocelyn Grace, Ineke Krom, Caitlin Maling, Tony Butler and Richard Midford.