For Indigenous Australians, the “health of country” is inextricably linked with human health
The impacts of climate change on human health are now being documented in Australia.1 Not surprisingly, these impacts are unequally distributed across our society, as vulnerability depends on a number of factors, including the degree of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. However, intranational heterogeneity of climate impacts on health has not been adequately documented to date.2 Using this lens, the vulnerability of Australia’s Indigenous people living in remote areas of the country is revealed. Their vulnerability to climate change is intensified by the social and economic disadvantage they already experience — the result of factors that include decades of inadequate housing and public services, and culturally inappropriate medical services. In addition, specific cultural ties between Indigenous people’s wellbeing and the “health” of their “country” create significant indirect impacts of climate change.3,4 We argue that it is vital to acknowledge the significance of this situation now, so that anticipatory adaptive policies can be implemented. Such policies should ensure that adequate resources are provided to mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change on these communities, in a way that encourages community participation in decision making.
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