Cultural and social Influences on Personal Views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

My personal views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their health have been partly shaped by various cultural and social factors, including personal experiences, mass media, literature, and sources in social circles.  My foundational knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was mainly gained from literature, personal stories, and media. However, the rise of the internet later gave me easier access to data regarding these communities, their ways of life, health status, and history. Before delving into my influences concerning these indigenous peoples, it is important to point out key traits that define their identities. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are unique because of their standing as the original inhabitants of Australia. In 2011, their population amounted to 670,000, which is around 35% of the entire Australian population. Scientists have speculated that their population could grow beyond the one million mark by 2031 (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018). In general, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are holders of unique languages, beliefs, knowledge systems, and traditions, and are known for their propensity to retain cultural, social, economic, and political characteristics of their original societies.

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            I sourced my basic knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from firsthand experiences and personal accounts. I have not interacted with them through direct means, but have encountered them in the real world by way of observation. In my view, they are unique with regard to the values, beliefs, and attitudes they hold. Although some live in cities, they share a strong bond among themselves and tend to be more inclined toward their original societies than to modern lifestyles. Aboriginal Australians abide with their social identities and are more likely to refer their native lands as “country.” As the original inhabitants of Australia, they have retained traditional knowledge and beliefs that were once predominant.

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The media has consistently shown the lifestyle habits of aboriginal communities via documentaries and cultural programs. The communities are depicted to have originally lived in small family units but extended their social relations to the “country” level. This shows their obligation to the prosperity of the larger community and also that of their own. Their participation in contemporary life despite their strong cultural heritage further reveals their respect and commitment not only to their own ethnicity, heritage, and culture but also to fostering development in the current environment. This fact can be attested by the critical role of these communities in the development of the pastoral industry. Like the aboriginal people, the Torres Strait Islanders retained their customary practices by adopting a new niche of environment that blended original beliefs with new cultural practices (Grant & Greenop, 2018). Both cultures managed to self-actualize against many odds in the current global era by preserving their ethnicities and cultural beliefs. They can be compared to the Maori people of New Zealand although the former has expressed a more sacrificial nature with regard to family values.

             The strong bond between indigenous communities and their traditional ways of life means that they are increasingly unable to solve problems of the modern era. A primary concern is in the case of health and wellbeing. By researching on the internet and perusing studies, I have discovered that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have poorer health outcomes compared to their non-indigenous counterparts (Couzos, Delaney-Thiele, & Page, 2016). As pointed out above, indigenous communities are particularly different from the general population when it comes to many spheres of life because of their inclination toward traditional culture and problem-solving strategies. This implies that the modern healthcare system does not meet their needs and if it does, it does not comprehensively do so. A considerable solution among the healthcare community is to set up primary care healthcare services that specifically target indigenous communities. The lifestyle habits is also a significant factor in the poor health outcomes. In 2012, the average health expectancy among indigenous communities was approximately 10 years less than among the general Australian population. The leading causes of death were diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer (Moore, Lawn,Oster,  & Morello, 2017). This is more likely associated with poor dietary quality which is further attributed to refined foods (Brimblecombe, Ferguson, Liberato, & O’Dea, 2013).            

In conclusion, information gained from personal experiences and accounts from individuals in social circles has helped me understand the cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Mass media has also supplemented my knowledge by exposing me more to their beliefs, traditions, and customs that define their identities. Scholarly research has further revealed major issues that have faced these communities through history to the modern era. One of the most prevalent issues is associated with poor health outcomes which occur as a result of chronic illnesses.

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