Disadvantage and discontent: A review of issues relevant to the mental health of rural and remote Indigenous Australians


Professor Ernest Hunter, North Queensland Clinical School, University of Queensland, PO Box 1103, Cairns, Queensland, 4870, Australia. Email: ernest_hunter@health.qld.gov.au


Objective: To provide an overview of the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents of rural and remote Australia and to identify associated factors.

Findings: Indigenous Australians have higher rates of serious mental disorders and of mental health problems associated with social disadvantage. This disadvantage is greater for Indigenous Australians living outside metropolitan centres. Contrary to romanticised constructions of remote Aboriginal Australia, those living in such settings are not immune to such hardship – which is often unrelenting. The psychological and behavioural problems that emerge as a result are compounded by narrowly focused and inadequate mental health services, with children being particularly vulnerable.

Conclusion: Indigenous residents of rural and remote Australia experience high levels of mental disorder. Although addressing the predisposing social disadvantage will demand significant whole-of-government investment, ensuring equitable access to effective mental health services is an immediate priority.