The crisis in Aboriginal health is at its most acute in remote communities. This is well understood. That this crisis culminates in a 17-year gap between the life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, similarly, is known and understood.
Obviously, it means that Aboriginal people in remote communities die young, and everyone goes to a lot of funerals. In fact, in remote Top End communities, they’re the most common form of community event.
This means that people move about a lot. Traditionally, and now more than ever, as people gather to mourn yet another loss.
Less obvious is the headache this causes for community health. Mobility means reinfection. Just as you get scabies under control in a household or community, for example, a new influx of people into town means you’re back at square one. No sooner than you’ve eradicated trachoma then a new family arrives with the condition. It’s frustrating, and so is the fact that we’re working within Western service paradigms and treatment protocols that don’t factor remote Aboriginal realities.
Menzies is undertaking a project that involves ongoing collaborations with demographic investigators from the University of Melbourne and Charles Darwin University. It is a major study to establish patterns of mobility among remote Aboriginal populations. It will bring together mathematical modelers and health researchers, Aboriginal community leaders and health service providers. It will share its findings and recommendations with government housing and health care providers. It will incorporate smart technologies such as GPS tracking, and novel community education campaigns that respond to realities on the ground as we attempt to contain disease spread.