Decolonising practices: can journalism learn from health care to improve Indigenous health outcomes?

Melissa A Sweet, Patricia Dudgeon, Kerry McCallum and Matthew D Ricketson
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (11): 626-627. || doi: 10.5694/mja14.00528

Efforts to decolonise health care practice and research also hold lessons for journalists and the media industry

The ongoing effects of colonisation are widely acknowledged as contributing to intergenerational trauma, disadvantage and poor health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.1-3 Colonisation disrupted peoples' connection to country, to culture, to communities and to families through policies that sought to control, stigmatise and intervene in people's lives. Historically, doctors and other health professionals have been involved in colonising practices that have been detrimental to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and peoples.4 Health and medical research also has a longstanding record of perpetuating rather than mitigating the impacts of colonisation, for example, by portraying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as “passive, powerless victims”.5

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  • Melissa A Sweet1,2
  • Patricia Dudgeon3
  • Kerry McCallum1
  • Matthew D Ricketson1

  • 1 University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT.
  • 2 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA.


We thank Juanita Sherwood and the members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory committee for Melissa Sweet's PhD — Alwin Chong, Kathleen Musulin, Richard Weston and Renee Williams — for reviewing this article.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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