New research from the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association's Deeble Institute shines a light on solutions being implemented across the health sector, as well as highlighting gaps in current race discrimination law.
Australia's first Aboriginal dentist Dr Chris Bourke, who co-authored the paper, said many of the health disparities faced by Indigenous people could be linked back to racism.
"The raw facts are that Indigenous Australians have at least six times—in some age groups up to 15 times— the incidence of end-stage kidney disease as non-Indigenous Australians," Dr Bourke said.
"Yet we have one-quarter of the chance of receiving home-based dialysis, and one-third of the chance of receiving a kidney transplant."
"There is documented evidence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receiving poorer healthcare outcomes when treated by non-Indigenous healthcare organisations and health professionals."
To address those poorer outcomes, the paper says four key areas need addressing:
- Cultural safety
- Institutional racism
- National safety and quality health service standards
- Race discrimination law
The paper argues that current race discrimination laws focus more on individual action and do not adequately address systemic racism.
"Our laws do not engage with broader notions of 'equity' which look to distributive justice and fairness," the paper said.
"This limits the law's usefulness as a means to address the very large healthcare disparities, including kidney disease treatment, endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
Meanwhile, Queensland Health is regarded favourably by the research team for its work in addressing institutional racism. Specifically its partnership with the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and proposed legislation which could see better visibility of Indigenous people in the health system.