Plano, Texas — The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a call by indigenous Australian groups for a “first nations voice” in the Australian Constitution and the establishment of a “Makarrata Commission” to oversee agreements between the Australian government and those groups. While those measures have yet to come to pass, many groups have continued to echo the call for equality set forth in the statement, including the internationally renowned rock band, Midnight Oil.
The Healthcare Status of Indigenous Australians
By changing the preamble of the Australian Constitution to recognize indigenous groups, the Uluru Statement aims to provide recognition of the unique role those groups play in the country’s history. According to the Lowitja Institute, the national Australian indigenous health research institute, the effects that such a gesture could confer extend well beyond a symbolic gesture. In fact, the Institute states that the health struggles indigenous Australians face stem in part from their historic exclusion.
Economic and healthcare inequalities have long plagued indigenous Australians. A recent report created by the Institute on closing the healthcare gap in the country shows that while some elements of indigenous healthcare have started to improve, others have declined or become stagnant in recent years.
The report stated that “substantial gaps” still remain in infant and child mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Additionally, the rate of children in out-of-home care and reported cases of psychological distress have both increased in recent years.
Specifically, The Guardian found that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide and are almost three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than non-Indigenous Australians.”
The Importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
While the Uluru Statement, in itself, will not create any additional rights to repair these issues, the Lowitja Institute claims that there is significant research supporting the tangible health benefits that inclusion can provide. Additionally, constitutional recognition may help provide the basis for indigenous groups to have better contact with healthcare providers who may then be more prepared to meet their healthcare needs.
The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that constitutional recognition would, “improve the sense of self-worth and social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples both as individuals, communities and as part of the national identity.”
The Guardian found that researchers were increasingly exploring the close ties between mental wellbeing and physical health among indigenous people as well. “For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, health and wellbeing [are]viewed holistically and sense of self includes the individual, their kin (family), community and Country (land, sea and sky),” according to The Guardian.
Furthermore, the benefits derived from providing constitutional recognition extends to other groups and areas beyond the healthcare of indigenous populations. The Uluru Statement also proposes to include protections against discrimination in the body of the Australian Constitution, which will help all Australians achieve greater equality.
Midnight Oil’s Support for Aboriginal Rights
Many people have expressed their support for the Uluru Statement and the benefits it may bring, but few supporters are perhaps as popular in Australia as the rock band Midnight Oil. The band has long supported aboriginal rights in the group’s home country through music, including Midnight Oil’s hit single “Beds Are Burning.”
The band’s latest album, coming in after more than 18 years, furthered this support by including in the last song a reading of the Uluru Statement by five renowned indigenous leaders. In fact, the band dedicated the entire mini album, titled “The Makarrata Project,” to the aboriginal rights debate. The rock band included aboriginal guests on each of the album’s tracks who will also perform live with Midnight Oil in support of the album. Midnight Oil’s drummer Rob Hirst told American Songwriter that the band also released the mini album separately from an upcoming full-length album in order to better spotlight the cause.
Moving Forward with the Uluru Statement
Sustained help such as that of popular celebrity bands like Midnight Oil may prove extremely beneficial to Australian indigenous populations in their efforts to gain the support they need to call for a countrywide referendum on the goals expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. These goals, if achieved, may go a long way toward helping some of Australia’s long underrepresented people.
– Brett Grega
Photo: Wikimedia Commons