Guiding Principles

Following are some of the underlying philosophical principles and consensus statements that are likely to support the most effective development and delivery of Indigenous health in core medical curricula:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a diversity of cultures, experiences, histories and geographical locations. They are not a homogenous population, and this should be reflected in the design, delivery and evaluation of curricula.
  • 'Indigenous health’ does not merely refer to the cultural, historical or socioeconomic factors regarding Indigenous Australians that can be taught as a separate (and potentially stigmatised) part of the medical curriculum. Rather, Indigenous health needs to be included in the broadest possible terms—where both specific subjects/areas and Problem Based Learning (PBL) cases about Indigenous people are taught, and where Indigenous examples in specific medical conditions are also delivered.
  • Indigenous views on health and well-being are both valid and critical to the delivery of culturally appropriate, and safe, medica; and health care. The first National Aboriginal Health Strategy defined health as: '… not just the physical well-being of the individual, but the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. This is a whole-of-life view and it also includes the cycle of life death-life.'
  • In addition, the Many Ways Forward Report: Inquiry into Capacity Building and Service Delivery in Indigenous Communities produced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, identifies concepts as diverse as harmonised relationships, spiritual well-being, care for land and self-determination as being central to the way Indigenous Australians understand health and well-being.
  • Indigenous views on, and knowledge of, health and well-being are of benefit to all Australians, not just Indigenous peoples. For example, the emphasis on community wellness and medicine in Indigenous societies could be further explored for the potential health benefits it may offer to other Australians.
  • Indigenous professionals and community members need to be valued and recognised for their expertise not only in Indigenous health, but for their abilities and contributions to academic life and scholarship in general.
  • The health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are governed more by the historical and social determinants of health than by inherent Aboriginality. Prior to colonisation, Indigenous Australians were healthy and maintained physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. Thus, the prevalence of illness in today’s society cannot easily be attributed only to genetic or even behavioural causes. Rather, as supported by evidence, the preferred view is that current health outcomes result from a range of interrelated historical, environmental, physiological, political and behavioural factors.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples require equity of access not only to mainstream services that are free of racism and other forms of discrimination, but also to services which are specific and culturally appropriate.
  • In Canada, the USA and Aotearoa/New Zealand, a convincing case has been made that the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples is strengthened both by having their sovereignty recognised, and by having control over their own health care service delivery.

Complete version available in the CDAMS Curriculum Framework including references [ PDF 226KB]