Despite a growing recognition of the need to account for the profound effects of colonisation in contemporary explanations of Indigenous health and wellbeing (Durie, 2003; Gracey & King, 2009), explanatory approaches that actually do so are relatively rare. Focusing on North America, Australasia and Scandinavia, this paper provides a comprehensive critical review of how the relationship between colonization, health and wellbeing has been framed in population and health research. Particular attention is given to the theorised mechanisms, both implicit and explicit, linking colonisation to Indigenous outcomes at specific historical junctures. The review is part of a pioneering international, interdisciplinary project that seeks to understand the drivers and mechanisms linking colonisation and health for Australian Aborigines, Māori and Swedish Sami. The three case studies offer a fruitful basis for comparison. Sami have among the best health outcomes in the world, with no discernable difference with the non-Sami population. By contrast, Australian Aboriginals have health outcomes that rank among the worst in the developed world, while Māori appear to occupy an intermediate position. In addition to variation in health outcomes (both in an absolute sense and vis-à-vis the settler majority), all three peoples have had quite different experiences of colonisation with respect to the loss of political authority, industrialization, land alienation, language suppression, cultural assimilation, racialization and so forth. A key question animating this study is the extent to which differences in the colonisation experience can explain differences in the health outcomes of Indigenous peoples in those countries.
Durie, M. (2003). The health of Indigenous peoples: Depends on genetics, politics, and socioeconomic factors, BMJ: British Medical Journal, 326(7388), 510-511.
Gracey, M. & King, M. (2009). Indigenous health part I: Determinants and disease patterns, Lancet, 374, 64-75.
TASA Conference 2013: Reflections, Intersections and Aspirations 50 years of Australian Sociology