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Mental health impacts of racial discrimination in Victorian Aboriginal communities

Mental health Aboriginal Australians Australia Victoria

This research summary highlights the key findings of the Aboriginal Experiences of Racism survey undertaken in 2010-2011.

A total of 755 Aboriginal Victorians were surveyed in two rural and two metropolitan areas of Victoria. The research was conducted as part of the Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity (LEAD) program and was undertaken to ascertain the level of racism and its impacts on the mental health of Aboriginal Australians in these local government areas.

For background, in 2007 VicHealth published findings from a survey of 4,000 Victorians, the majority of whom supported a society that included people from different cultures. These conclusions were published in the More than tolerance: Embracing diversity for health1 report. Yet approximately one in 10 of those surveyed held views that were blatantly racist (e.g. ‘some groups are inferior to others’; ‘people from different ‘races’ should not marry’) and approximately one in three suggested that they did not tolerate certain ethnic differences (e.g. the belief that some groups do not fit into Australian society).

The LEAD program was developed in response to these findings. LEAD was designed to trial new community interventions that addressed racism in two communities. The communities were selected due to their broad ethnic mix and local government commitment, not because they were any more or less racist than other localities. Two additional local government areas were selected as control sites because their demographic profiles matched the two pilot sites.

This research was conducted at the beginning of the LEAD program to ascertain the level of racism and its impacts on the mental health of Aboriginal Victorians in these local government areas. It was envisaged that this research could inform the design of future evaluations and surveys.

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