‘National disgrace’: Indigenous life expectancy slammed
The life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a national disgrace, Aboriginals from outback NSW say.
The Daily Telegraph has spent the past week visiting remote Indigenous communities in the state's far west.
Some young families say the most pressing problems they face are a lack of access to fresh food and the threat of substance abuse.
The potential long-term effects of these problems are reflected in the latest federal government statistics on how long Aboriginals can expect to live.
In 2015-17, life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Aussies was estimated to be 71.6 years for men and 75.6 years for women. In contrast, the life expectancy at birth for non-Indigenous Australians was 80.2 years for men and 83.4 years for women.
The numbers paint a more grim picture in the NSW outback town of Wilcannia.
A University of Technology Sydney study found in 2009 that the average life expectancy in the town was only 36.7 years for Aboriginal men and 42.5 years for women.
Michael Kennedy, 38, who lives in Wilcannia with his daughter Isla, 1, and stepdaughter Jayda, 9, said according to those statistics, he does not have long to live.
"We're in the year 2021 now and for life expectancy to be so low for Indigenous or Aboriginal people, it's appalling, it's a disgrace to the country. It just shows for me how far we are left behind in this country," he said.
"I think in Wilcannia our life expectancy is about 40 years of age, I'm 38 now."
Mr Kennedy said a general practitioner was flown in from Broken Hill to the outback town four days a week.
There is also a local Aboriginal health service and ambulances for emergencies.
An aerodrome has been built for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to use.
Mr Kennedy, who volunteers with the local Aboriginal land council, said he was determined to reverse this frightening life expectancy trend for the sake of his children.
"That's why I try and get involved as much as I can with the community, because one of my dreams and goals is to help change the statistics, if one day we're all able to live equal long lives," he said.
"That's what it's about, it's about leaving something behind for my children."
He said his mob's health prospects would also improve when the mighty Darling River, on which Wilcannia is located, returns to high levels.
"The statistics show that when the river's up, the crime rates are down," he said.
"The river is something we always leaned on because it fed us, it gave us activities to do, fishing and swimming ... you come home a different person after spending a day on the river … you go to bed happy and wake up happy."
Originally published as 'National disgrace': Indigenous life expectancy slammed