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Ecohealth and Aboriginal testimony of the nexus between human health and place


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Johnston, FH 2007 , 'Ecohealth and Aboriginal testimony of the nexus between human health and place' , Ecohealth, vol. 4, no. 4 , pp. 489-499 , doi: 10.1007/s10393-007-0142-0.

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The spread of industrial civilizations has been particularly traumatic for the last remaining huntergatherer
societies. Manifestations of this include expatriation from ancestral lands, sickness, poverty, and
environmental degradation. Northern Australia has been no exception despite remaining a stronghold of
Aboriginal cultures and still containing vast areas of relatively intact landscapes. Most Aboriginal people reside
in remote settlements where they remain on the negative extreme of basic indicators such as life expectancy and
educational attainment. In addition, biodiversity declines are being documented from loss of Aboriginal fire
management and invasion by feral species. There has been little consideration of potential health, social,
economic, or environmental benefits of routinely hunting, gathering or being on their land. This reflects a
Western philosophical position that segregates land management and health policy, a view at odds with
Aboriginal peoples’ testimony of the indivisibility of people and land. Here we report perspectives from
Arnhemland gathered through observation and unstructured and semistructured interviews. Themes that
emerged included the high level of detailed, complex knowledge of their traditionally owned lands, the
perceived urgency about passing this on to younger people, and the need that both land and people have for
each other for the well-being of both. Primary motivations for returning to traditional lands were gathering
food, escaping from stresses, and educating young people. The many barriers included no transport, family
problems, frequent funerals, and other cultural or family obligations. This work forms part of a larger
transdisciplinary research program that aims to inform policy about sustainable futures in northern Australia.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Johnston, FH
Keywords: aboriginal health, landscape ecology, qualitative research, natural resource management, health policy
Journal or Publication Title: Ecohealth
Publisher: Springer New York LLC
ISSN: 1612-9202
DOI / ID Number: 10.1007/s10393-007-0142-0
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