The Australian government’s recent apology to the Aboriginal people for historic wrongs could benefit people’s health, Rachel Nowak reports for the New Scientist. The Aboriginal people currently struggle with high rates of alcoholism, depression, and other physical and mental health issues. Prime Minister Paul Rudd’s apology for forced “assimilation” programs that ended in 1970 has been called “tremendously significant in mental health respects,” by medical policy researcher Marlene Kong. “It will help the healing process, and that in turn will contribute to physical well-being.”
Native Americans in the United States struggle with some of the same issues of substance abuse and depression, yet “the United States has no general program of reparations for Native Americans and no prospects for adopting one,” David C. Williams writes for Cultural Survival Quarterly. Williams believes that Americans’ aversion to guilt is holding up the reparations processes, no matter what the potential benefits could be.
Even with the formal apology, experts quoted by the New Scientist recognize that Australia has a long way to go toward closing the health gap between Aboriginal people and the rest of the country. A 17-year differential in life expectancy currently exists between some Aboriginal communities and Australia as a whole. The government has pledged to close that rift within a generation, but experts agree that greater resources are needed to address the problem.