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Focuses on current state-wide social and health status indicators for Western Australian Aborigines. This report has been prepared for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody as part of a consultancy agreement.
The current data support the conclusion reached by the Health Department of Western Australia in its 1986 review of health and illness in the State: Aboriginal ill-health is a major cause of premature deaths, excess , hospitalisation and chronic disability.
Overall, Aboriginal mortality is 2.5 to three times that of the total Australian population. The major cause of Aboriginal deaths is disease of the circulatory system, (including heart disease), with injuries and diseases of the respiratory system also making major contributions to the excess mortality experienced by Aborigines. The greatest difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal death rates is found among young and middle aged adults. The net result of the excess mortality experienced by Aborigines is that the expectation of life at birth of Aborigines is about 15 years less than that of other Western Australians.
Despite substantial improvements since the early 1970s, the mortality of Aboriginal infants in Western Australia remains more than 2.5 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, and perinatal mortality is almost twice as high as that of other Australians.
The rates of hospitalisation of Aborigines are 2.5 to three times those of other Western Australians and, as with death rates, the greatest difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal rates is found among young and middle aged adults.
The magnitude of the health problems experienced by Aborigines in Western Australia clearly justify the Health Department of Western Australia's recognition of Aboriginal ill-health as a priority area for immediate action.
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