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Beyond cultural security; towards sanctuary

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Building an oasis in the desert for the health and wellbeing of our children

The current state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health compared with the wider Australian population is well known, with most common health conditions overrepresented, a significant gap in life expectancy, and poorer physical and mental health outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience lower levels of access to health services, are more likely to be hospitalised for health conditions, suffer a greater burden of emotional distress than the rest of the population, and are overrepresented in regard to health risk factors such as smoking.1 With fewer elders and adults available to buffer families, children and young people often bear the burden of care for sick relatives and are more likely to experience the death of several family members during their developmental stages. Many families will experience multiple life stress events within a relatively short period of time, and the effects of this may be cumulative over generations.2 In a study in this issue of the Journal, Askew and colleagues found that urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who had experienced significant life stress events had poorer physical health and more parental concern regarding their…