Discuss the impact on the health of Aboriginal peoples brought on by the changes since the arrival of Europeans in Australia

Essay by iggy_spotter May 2006

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The arrival of Europeans in Australia had been detrimental to the survival of the indigenous people. Massacres, assimilation and appropriation of natural resources occurred. Yet the most powerful and deadly weapon used in the war against Aboriginal Australians was an unintentional one- the diseases the Europeans carried with them to which the Aboriginals had absolutely no resistance, and which consequently reduced the Aboriginal population drastically. In this report I will aim to discuss the effect these diseases had on the health of the Indigenous people of Australia.


Before European Settlement

Before European settlement, the Australian Aboriginals lived as hunter gatherers in isolation from the rest of the world. They survived great climatic changes and adapted successfully to their challenging physical environment. Their diet included a wide variety of foods, consisting of animals, insects and a mixture of fruits and nuts. This balanced lifestyle and the geographical isolation of the Australian continent ensured that there weren't many diseases present before European settlement, and even fewer infectious diseases.

Of these infectious diseases, the Aboriginals had developed a resistance to them through the evolution of successive generations. Because there were no written records of Aboriginal life before European settlement, we could not be sure of their population during that time, however, it was estimated to be between 250,000 and 1 million.

Infectious Diseases

Some diseases, such as smallpox, influenza and measles are infectious. They have certain types of pathogens with the ability to spread from one human host to another. In Asia and Europe these diseases have been dated back to the ancient times. Smallpox, (see fig.1) for example, has been found to be affecting humans for more than 10 000 years. By being exposed to these diseases, inhabitants of Asia and Europe have developed certain immunity to them, which are...