Health can only be defined in relation to a person’s own values, which will, of necessity, reflect the cultural background of that person. White Australian health professionals in general, and nurses in particular, need to understand the meaning of health within a traditional Aboriginal culture, in order to respond appropriately to the health needs of Aboriginal people. This essay will discuss the definition of Aboriginal health and identify how the principles of cultural competency would assist health professionals in meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
To Aboriginal people, ill-health is more than physical illness; it is a manifestation of other factors, including spiritual and emotional alienation from land, family and culture. Aboriginal people have a spiritual link with the land which provides a sense of identity, and which lies at the centre of their spiritual beliefs (Jackson et al, 2000). In 1990, the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS) developed Is this Essay helpful? Join OPPapers to read more and access more than 350,000 just like it! a widely accepted definition of health as perceived by Aboriginal peoples: ‘Health does not just mean the physical well-being of the individual but refers to the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole community.
This is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.’ This definition of health places in perspective our history, the importance to Aboriginal people of their links with the land, and their marginalisation, sense of loss and present-day disregarded position within the Australian community. Therefore to understand Aboriginal ill-health, one must first acknowledge the impact of dispossession, theft, genocide, lost and stolen generations of families and the attempted destruction of the countless cultures of the people inhabiting Australia before 1770 (Bullimore, 2002).