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Health workers should take Aboriginal languages seriously: article

"He chucked his guts up."

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Robert Amery, head of linguistics at the University of Adelaide, said he’d used this term when teaching a short course in medical interpreting to a group of Yolŋu students and soon realised the problem with such a turn of phrase.

“The Yolŋu students interpreted this idiom literally, thinking he ripped out his intestines and threw them in the air,” Amery said, and added this is an example of the communication gap between health professionals and First Nations Australians living in remote communities.

Amery said while many speakers of Indigenous languages living in remote areas can converse in English about everyday matters, they often have a poor grasp of the language when it comes to health communications.

Miscommunication isn't just about language, he added. "Some of these difficulties also arise from the interface of communication and culture, which are often derived from differences in worldview."

Nursing Review sat down with Amery to find out more about misunderstandings between health professionals and aboriginal Australians living in remote areas, and how they can be overcome. Listen to that interview here:

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