Menzies’ Oration to probe true cost of living for Indigenous Australians 


Socio-economic status and the health of Indigenous Australians will be the focus of the 2008 Menzies School of Health Research (MSHR) Oration to be delivered by World Vision Australia CEO Rev Tim Costello.

With the link in public health literature between socio-economic status and life expectancy now well established, recent research has demonstrated that disadvantage should be viewed in relative, rather than absolute terms, whereby income differentials are more important than benchmarks of poverty or material living standards.

This year, the World Health Organisation Commission on the Social Determinants of Health released a report which suggested that the nature of health problems faced by rich and poor countries is converging around the key issue of the equitable distribution of wealth.

The report showed that the life of a boy from the Glasgow suburb of Calton would be 28 years shorter than that of a boy from the nearby affluent suburb of Lenzie.

Director of MSHR, Professor Jonathon Carapetis said it was not difficult to reflect on similar socio-economic gradients faced by Indigenous Australians in areas such as Mutijulu, Uluru, Redfern, Ultimo and the Alice Springs town camps.

“The notion of socio-economic status captures the social relativities involved here,” he said.

“Most government programs aimed at improving socio-economic conditions are focused on education and employment, but socio-economic status in Australia is also underpinned by home ownership, personal savings, community engagement and political representation.

“These dimensions generally sit beyond the mandate of health professionals, but unless we understand their effects, gains in Indigenous health will be limited.”

Professor Carapetis said a focus on the social determinants of health would require governments to work in different ways, which the Australian Government’s social inclusion agenda was beginning to comprehend.

The 2008 Menzies Oration will be held on Tuesday, 25 November from 5.30pm to 7pm at the Darwin Convention Centre.

Contact Yvonne Coleman on 8922 8982 or to register attendance.