Researchers have polled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians about their experiences of racism at hospitals and GP clinics.
The online survey, with 120 respondents, found high levels of everyday racism in the health sector.
Of those polled, 88 per cent reported incidences of racism from nurses, and 74 per cent had experienced racism when dealing with GPs.
The survey was conducted by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and designed in partnership with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) students.
The results revealed 86 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria have personally experienced racism in a mainstream health setting at least once, while 54 per cent said they experienced racism in hospitals every time they attended.
Acting CEO for VACCHO, Trevor Pearce, says incidents of racism within the mainstream health system often lead to Indigenous Australians seeking treatment much later than non-Indigenous people or avoiding it all together, contributing to the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes.
“Racism hinders people from actually getting good medical care, getting good health care ... accessing services,” he told NITV News.
He says the results highlight the need for government to appoint an independent health commissioner and address cultural awareness at all levels of the health system.
“There are avenues that can be taken to overcome these issues and we are here to urge they be adopted by whichever party wins government at the Victorian election later this month,” Mr Pearce said in a statement.
The survey responses showed fewer incidents of racism when interacting with dentists (48 per cent) and the ambulance service (46 per cent).
Mr Pearce attributed the lower figures to the cultural competency work VACCHO has done with Dental Health Services Victoria and Ambulance Victoria, and said it showed how working with the Aboriginal community could achieve beneficial results for everybody involved.
“This is going to require Aboriginal people not just being heard, but actions being taken on what we say. We know what is best for us, we have the answers. Pay attention to us and act accordingly,” he said.
Victoria’s health minister Jill Hennessy says the government is taking the issue seriously.
“We are ensuring our services are more responsive to the needs of Indigenous Australians, so they can get the high quality and safe care they need, when they need it – free from discrimination,” she said in a statement.