Ecohealth and Aboriginal Testimony of the Nexus Between Human Health and Place
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Johnston, F and Jacups, SP and Vickery, AJ and Bowman, DMJS, Ecohealth and Aboriginal Testimony of the Nexus Between Human Health and Place, Ecohealth, 4, (4) pp. 489-499. ISSN 1612-9202 (2007) [Refereed Article]
The spread of industrial civilizations has been particularly traumatic for the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies. Manifestations of this include expatriation from ancestral lands, sickness, poverty, and environmental degradation. Northern Australia has been no exception despite remaining a stronghold of Aboriginal cultures and still containing vast areas of relatively intact landscapes. Most Aboriginal people reside in remote settlements where they remain on the negative extreme of basic indicators such as life expectancy and educational attainment. In addition, biodiversity declines are being documented from loss of Aboriginal fire management and invasion by feral species. There has been little consideration of potential health, social, economic, or environmental benefits of routinely hunting, gathering or being on their land. This reflects a Western philosophical position that segregates land management and health policy, a view at odds with Aboriginal peoples' testimony of the indivisibility of people and land. Here we report perspectives from Arnhemland gathered through observation and unstructured and semistructured interviews. Themes that emerged included the high level of detailed, complex knowledge of their traditionally owned lands, the perceived urgency about passing this on to younger people, and the need that both land and people have for each other for the well-being of both. Primary motivations for returning to traditional lands were gathering food, escaping from stresses, and educating young people. The many barriers included no transport, family problems, frequent funerals, and other cultural or family obligations. This work forms part of a larger transdisciplinary research program that aims to inform policy about sustainable futures in northern Australia. © 2007 Ecohealth Journal Consortium.
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