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Race matters

Indigenous Australians are affected by racism more in healthcare than in any other field, according to new research.

A new survey examines experiences of racism in healthcare settings compared with other areas including workplace, education and support and its impact on the mental health of Aboriginal Australians.

Led by associate professor Margaret Kelaher and research fellow Angeline Ferdinand from the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with professor Yin Paradies from Deakin University, the results found racism in health care may have a stronger effect than in other environments.

“People who experienced racism in health settings were more likely to experience very high psychological distress, compared with respondents who reported no experiences of racism,” Kelaher said.

“The most frequent experience of racism in this setting included being a target of racist names, jokes or teasing, or hearing comments that relied on stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians.”

According to Kelaher, ten per cent of respondents indicated that in the healthcare sphere they had been told that they “‘didn’t belong in Australia’, that they should ‘go home’ or ‘get out’.”

Funded by VicHealth, the research established a link between racist incidents and poor mental health for Indigenous people. “VicHealth has undertaken considerable research over the past decade which has built the case for preventing, and responding to, race-based discrimination,” said Jerril Rechter, the foundation’s CEO.

“This report provides evidence that racism in health care, like many other parts of the community, is detrimental to health, and reveals an urgent need to address this issue in Victoria.”

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