Aboriginal timeline: Health

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  1. A catastrophic smallpox epidemic decimates the Eora Aboriginal people of Port Jackson, Botany Bay and Broken Bay.


  1. A devastating measles epidemic, brought on by European explorers, cuts through through the Torres Strait Islands at the height of the pearl-shell fishery and reduces the population of the whole area by almost 25% because Islanders had no natural immunity. On some islands 50 to 80% of the population succumbs to the disease.


  1. The Queensland government establishes a leprosarium on Fantome Island (Eumilli Island) in the Great Palm Island group, about 65 km north-east of Townsville. Aboriginal patients are sent there to protect white people from catching the disease until 1973 when it is closed.


  1. Aboriginal children need a medical certificate to attend public schools.


  1. Aboriginal Medical Service formed in Redfern, Sydney.


  1. Community controlled Aboriginal Medical Service is set up in Redfern, Sydney. The first in Australia.


  1. The National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation is set up.


  1. National Trachoma and Eye Health Program finds that more than half of 60,000 Aboriginal people examined have trachoma. The infection rate is as high as 80% in some areas.


  1. Health statistics show that 48 in every 1,000 Aboriginal babies in NT die before reaching 1 year of age. This compares to 1 baby in every 1000 in the white population. Of the 6,000 Aboriginal children living in Sydney 4,000 are underweight. Leprosy still occurs in Aboriginal populations and alcohol is a serious problem.


  1. Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care established (SNAICC). SNAICC represents the interests on a national level of Australia’s 100 or so Indigenous community-controlled children’s services.


  1. Aboriginal women, some as young as 13, are forcibly sterilised with the drug Depro Provera (made by Pfizer) despite serious side effects and being banned in the US. This is seen as one method by the government to control and reduce the number of Aboriginal people. The UK, New Zealand and the US have similar practices. Permanent sterilisation through tubal ligation also occurred.


  1. 400 Aboriginal men take part in an Aboriginal male health summit and issue the Inteyerrkwe Statement, an apology from men to women for violence and abuse.

  2. Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting where state and federal heads announce they will contribute $806 million (federal) and $772 million (all states) into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health over the next four years, the biggest single injection of Indigenous health spending in decades.


  1. During the 2009 swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal people make up 11% of all identified cases, 20% of hospitalisations and 13% of deaths. There were 3.2 times more Aboriginal people admitted to hospital than non-Aboriginal people, 4 times as many admissions to intensive care units and 4.5 times the number of deaths.


  1. The Lowitja Institute opens in Melbourne, the first national body solely committed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. Its naming patron is Aboriginal woman Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue from the Luritja clan of Central Australia.


  1. In response to the world-wide outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reaching Australia the Northern Land Council suspends all existing non-essential permits to visit Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory. The decision means there won't be any tourist activities in the Top End region. The Anangu, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands put restrictions in place a week earlier, and communities of the Torres Strait on February 20.

    Remote communities lock themselves down early, and uncompromisingly. Most remain locked down well into mid-2020 to shield themselves from the virus and protect their vulnerable Elders and the sick.

  2. MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo's Orana Foundation unveils a database of more than 1,400 Aboriginal ingredients, detailed with their nutritional value, taste profile and potential commercial application. Designed to help make Aboriginal foods commonplace in Australian homes, the Foundation plans to hand over the database to an Aboriginal organisation to use and manage it.


  1. In Phase 1b of Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, six million higher-risk Australians becoming eligible including Aboriginal people aged over 55. Phase 1a covered frontline workers, and Phase 2a will cover the remaining Aboriginal age groups.


View article sources (0)

[10041] 'Biomapping Indigenous Peoples: Towards an Understanding of the Issues', Susanne Berthier-Foglar, Sheila Collingwood-Whittick, Sandrine Tolazzi (eds), 2012 p.318
[92044] 'Indigenous coronavirus taskforce meets as remote communities restrict access', The Guardian 6/3/2020
[92195] 'It’s no accident that Blak Australia has survived the pandemic so well. Survival is what we do', The Guardian 23/7/2020

Cite this page

Korff, J 2024, Aboriginal timeline: Health, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/health>, retrieved 13 July 2024

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