Medical Journal of Australia – NT Intervention and indigenous health issues

The Medical Journal of Australia

After the Intervention – Editorial

Health Impacts of the Northern Territory intervention

Peter O’Mara
MJA 2010; 192 (10): 546-548

On 12 March 2010, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) launched a health impact assessment of the Australian Government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response to protect Aboriginal children. The report of the assessment was developed by AIDA in collaboration with the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation at the University of New South Wales, and with support and financial assistance from the Fred Hollows Foundation.

The health impact assessment of the NTER is underpinned by the Aboriginal understanding of health and wellbeing. It refers to The dance of life model developed by Professor Helen Milroy, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of Western Australia.5 This model represents an Aboriginal interpretation of health and illustrates health in its five dimensions — cultural, spiritual, social, emotional and physical — within which are a number of layers reflecting historical, traditional and contemporary influences on health. These five dimensions were examined within the health impact assessment framework.

Bearing in mind the Aboriginal definition of health outlined above, the health impact assessment predicts that the intended health outcomes of the NTER — improved health and wellbeing and, ultimately, longer life expectancy — are unlikely to be fully achieved. The health impact assessment findings speak for themselves and show that the intervention does more harm than good. The report’s disturbing prediction — that the intervention will cause profound long-term damage to our Indigenous communities — should be of concern to all Australians, including medical practitioners.

The main findings of the report are that:

* the intervention could potentially lead to profound long-term damage, with any possible benefits to physical health largely outweighed by negative impacts on psychological health, social health and wellbeing, and cultural integrity;

* the increasing levels of mistrust caused by the Howard Government’s ill conceived and rushed implementation of the intervention will continue to compromise the Rudd Government’s ability to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to achieve shared objectives; and

* the potential negative impacts of the intervention may be minimised, but only if governments commit to working in respectful partnerships with Indigenous people.

Full story with much useful information at:

And check out full Contents of 17 May 2010 issue