• A ngangkari healer (right) practices traditional medicine on her patient. (NITV)Source: NITV
Traditional medicine could play a role in helping the government close the health gap between Indigenous and other Australians.
The Point
28 Apr 2016 - 7:35 PM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2016 - 7:38 PM

Indigenous Australians experience a greater prevalence of health conditions, such as kidney and heart disease than other Australians since Europeans arrived in 1788. 

In fact, they die 10 years younger than their non-Indigenous counterparts, according to the latest Australian Government data.

But Tracy McCarthy says traditional medicine, which has been practiced for more than 40,000 years, may hold the key to closing this gap.

"That's what we need to do - [recognise and practice traditional healing]," Ms McCarthy, senior project officer at Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services of the University of Sydney, told ‘The Point’.

"Our culture is the foundation of this nation."

Ngangkari healers make their mark in Sydney's inner west
Traditional healers from South Australia bring their centuries-old practice to a clinic in Sydney’s inner west.

Ms McCarthy believes traditional healing changed her life.

“Whatever pain or block I could feel in my body, I would go see [a traditional healer] and immediately it is gone, and suddenly I feel light and pain free, and I feel my spirit is settled at the same time," Ms McCarthy says.

The healers, called ‘ngangkaris’, do not reveal their methods but say they work with the Indigenous spirit, and have a deep cultural understanding of plants, animals and their environment. 

There is no federal health policy recognising Aboriginal traditional medicine, unlike other alternative medicines such as Chinese medicine, although ngangkari involvement in the mental health of Indigenous people is enshrined in South Australia’s state law.  

Dr Francesa Panzironi, a legal academic who set up the Aṉangu ngangkaṟi Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC), says Indigenous medicine should be considered in the national health framework.

“It is about assessing the benefits of the two interventions and see how they can make people healthier," Dr Panzironi told ‘The Point’.