According to the Close the Gap campaign racism could negatively impact on the health and life expectancy of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
ANTAR National President Doctor Peter Lewis said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experience a high level of racism and race hate speech in their daily life.
“The proposed definition neglects the evidence that experiences of racism and racial discrimination have strong negative mental health impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Dr Lewis said.
“Racial discrimination causing psychological or economic harm should also be prohibited.”
Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First People Kristie Parker said this negative impact will eventually lead to low employment and education opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“A lack of government funding means it is hard to meet the greater health needs,” Ms Parker said.
“Clearly the government and many other Indigenous health organisations are concerned about closing [the divide], and there is still a very significant gap.”
According to a report released in May, Indigenous Australians were 2.5 times more likely to have heart disease than other Australians in 2011.
In 2010, lung cancer and chronic disease rates in the Indigenous community were nearly double than other Australians.
Close the Gap campaign co-chair Mick Gooda said racism is associated with health risk behaviours and outcomes such as substance abuse, suicide, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
“The increases in racism could counteract the small improvements in life expectancy and good progress towards reducing smoking rates,” Mr Gooda said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) media advisor Cameron Johnson said the government needs to provide more health services for Indigenous Australians.
“There are two dimensions to this issue. There are services not being offered, referrals not being made, and procedures not being done,” Mr Johnson said.
“We should be doing what we can to ensure the factors contributing to the ill health of Aboriginal people are addressed, and that includes ensuring proper protections against racism and an accessible resource process for victims of racism.
“The proposed framework will introduce specialist care provided by primary healthcare services to ensure the care needed is accessible across all of Australia.”