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Equality and difference: persisting historical themes in health and alcohol policies affecting Indigenous Australians
  1. Maggie Brady
  1. Correspondence to:
 Maggie Brady
 Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Hanna Neumann Building #21, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia; Maggie.brady{at}


Disseminating national health and alcohol policies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia has been a challenging task for governments and public servants. This has been for a number of reasons, including the enduring (negative) legacy of past “Aboriginal affairs” policies, the fact that Indigenous health programmes and alcohol programmes have been treated separately since the 1970s, and a more recent context in which the recognition of cultural difference was privileged. Confronted with the politics of difference, health departments were slow to examine avenues through which best practice advice emanating from WHO, and alcohol policies such as harm minimisation and early identification and treatment in primary health care, could be communicated in culturally recognisable ways to independent Indigenous services. In addition, there was hostility towards harm minimisation policies from Indigenous service providers, and Indigenous treatment programmes remained largely committed to abstinence-oriented modalities and the disease model of alcoholism, despite moves away from these approaches in the mainstream. However, genuinely innovative acute interventions and environmental controls over alcohol have been developed by Indigenous community-based organisations, approaches that are reinforced by international policy research evidence.

  • Indigenous people
  • alcohol policy
  • public health policy

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