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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

High level of trauma among Aborigines

Aborigines' levels of trauma are "far in excess" of the rest of the population.

Australia's Aborigines suffer levels of trauma usually found only among people who are systematically tortured, subjected to genocide or sent to concentration camps, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The report says almost two-thirds of patients who seek treatment from the country's Aboriginal medical services either have mental disorders or are psychologically distressed.

Red Harrison in Sydney: The ministers are expected to devise a strategy to deal with the problems
The study of mental health in Australia was prepared by Australia's Federal Health Department and the nation's leading statistical health research body, the Institute of Health and Welfare, and is one of three background papers prepared for Australia's health ministers to help set strategies for the future.

The report follows recent criticism of conservative Prime Minister John Howard's government by the United Nations for restricting Aboriginal land rights.

The mental health report links the effects of colonisation with trauma. "Trauma, loss and grief derive from the history of invasion," it said.

Other factors which combined to make the plight of Aborigines worse, included, "high levels of incarcerations, high levels of family separation, particularly those involving the forced separation of children from parents and Aboriginal deaths in custody."

The two other health reports linked high levels of stress to other serious health issues for Aboriginal people.

One noted, for example, that the incidence of end stage renal disease, produced by diabetes, is 26 times higher among some Aboriginal groups than in Australia's general population.

The other noted that the death rate from strokes among Aborigines was almost two-and-a-half times that of white Australians.

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