Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples believe there to be a strong link between culture, health and wellbeing. This report explores what has been written about these links. This report highlights the complicated links between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and wellbeing which operate at the individual and/or community level.
- Community wellbeing is strongly linked to spirituality and culture. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation has said that if a person is spiritually unwell, it will affect the whole person. Ngangkari (Aboriginal cultural healers of the Western Desert region) deal with the bad spirit causes of illness such as thought disturbances, headaches, blocked ears and lost spirit.
- Evidence suggests a positive relationship between language and improved wellbeing. Learning and speaking language is associated with improved physical health, social and emotional wellbeing, healing from intergenerational trauma, community interconnectedness and cultural continuity and higher bush food consumption.
- Despite the processes of colonisation, a strong sense of community exists in many places. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies are constructed around communities with strong kinship and family ties. Being part of a community may bring responsibilities and obligations that confirm and reinforce membership. These may be obligations to (extended) family, and involvement in community functions. Kinship has positive effects on maintaining cultural knowledge, and on the overall health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly children.
- Colonisation, including the ongoing effects of racism, forcible removal of children and intergenerational trauma has had negative effects on health and social and emotional wellbeing for people, families and communities. We note that resistance and resilience are as much part of a contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and identity, as are the effects of colonisation.