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Supporting the best start in life for Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders

It is generally accepted that the quality of a person’s early years in life will have a significant effect on the quality of their later life, in terms of health and other outcomes. This is true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as much as for other Australians. The health and early life circumstances experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disturbing, and more on a par with those experienced in Third World countries rather than a wealthy nation such as ours. The AMA’s 2008 Report Card Ending the Cycle of Vulnerability: The Health of Indigenous Children ­gives an indication of what these circumstances are, and what some of the potential directions forward might be.

15 Jul 2012

It is generally accepted that the quality of a person’s early years in life will have a significant effect on the quality of their later life, in terms of health and other outcomes. This is true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as much as for other Australians.

The health and early life circumstances experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disturbing, and more on a par with those experienced in Third World countries rather than a wealthy nation such as ours. The AMA’s 2008 Report Card Ending the Cycle of Vulnerability: The Health of Indigenous Children ­gives an indication of what these circumstances are, and what some of the potential directions forward might be.

Until recently, there has been a limited understanding of just what early life factors and conditions have on an individual’s development and progression through life, and how significant. However, there is now an emerging body of research and longitudinal studies tracing various early life influences to outcomes later in life. This research can provide a more solid basis for identifying the types of interventions that will have the greatest effect in supporting families in the early years to ensure healthy development as a child and maximize positive health outcomes later in life.

As a continuation of its earlier focus on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the AMA’s Taskforce on Indigenous Health will now explore best practice in early intervention to support the healthy development of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders through their early years. The Taskforce will interrogate the latest high quality research and expertise in the area, and also look at programs and measures that are already in operation, supporting resilience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth.

The Taskforce on Indigenous Health Committee will visit the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankuntjatjara) lands in South Australia to get first hand experience of the problems that affect healthy child development, as well as see the work groups in local communities are doing to develop solutions to these problems.

The AMA believes that Australia needs to make a substantial investment in the life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. There is now some strong evidence as to where those investments might best be made to support the best start in life.

 


Published: 15 Jul 2012