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Abstract

Objective: Decades of health-related research have produced a large body of knowledge describing alarming rates of morbidity, mortality and social/cultural disruption among Indigenous Australians, but have failed to deliver sustainable interventions to arrest the deepening spiral of ill-health. This paper explores the potential of Indigenous natural resource management (NRM) activities to promote and preserve Indigenous health in remote areas of northern Australia.

Method: A literature review of the health, social science and ecology peer-reviewed journals and secondary literature.

Conclusions and Implications: Effective interventions in Indigenous health will require trans-disciplinary, holistic approaches that explicitly incorporate Indigenous health beliefs and engage with the social and cultural drivers of health. Aboriginal peoples maintain a strong belief that continued association with and caring for ancestral lands is a key determinant of health. Individual engagement with ‘country’ provides opportunities for physical activity and improved diet as well as boosting individual autonomy and self-esteem. Internationally, such culturally congruent health promotion activities have been successful in programs targeting substance abuse and chronic diseases.

NRM is fundamental to the maintenance of biodiversity of northern Australia. Increased support for Indigenous involvement in land and sea NRM programs would also deliver concrete social benefits for communities including opportunities for sustainable and culturally apt regional employment, applied education and economic development. NRM may also reinvigorate societal/cultural constructs, increasing collective esteem and social cohesion.