Indigenous Affairs

Aboriginal Australians are disproportionately negatively affected by health and economic issues. Covid-19 could serve to increase these disparities. Learning lessons from the past and hearing directly from those whose voices are often excluded from the political landscape will mitigate the effects of this crisis and enable a stronger future.


Policy Insights

  • Policymakers will need to work closely with Indigenous Australians to balance the need to address the uneven economic, health and social burdens resulting from COVID-19, with the on-going work of ameliorating the inequalities that pervaded society prior to this crisis. Read more.

Policymakers will need to work closely with Indigenous Australians to balance the need to address the uneven economic, health and social burdens resulting from COVID-19, with the on-going work of ameliorating the inequalities that pervaded society prior to this crisis.

Professor Lynette Russell

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

This crisis is often framed by politicians as something that affects all Australians, consequently, the health and economic burden can be portrayed as evenly spread throughout society. However, this is not really the case. The true consequences of this crisis are not yet known, but Indigenous Australians who were already disproportionately affected by health problems and economic hardship are particularly likely to suffer from the negative repercussions of COVID-19 now and into the future.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

It is especially important that in times of crisis the voices of Indigenous people, their experiences, and their knowledge are considered and given space in the public and policy realms. However, it is not just a matter of being heard or acknowledged, these conversations also need to be transformed into action so that policy can accurately reflect and attend to the varied needs of Indigenous Australians.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

An epidemic such as COVID-19 moves within the structures society has created. There is nothing natural or inevitable about who has access to healthcare or economic assistance, and who misses out. Once again, we are reminded that the inequalities faced by Indigenous Australians are a consequence of society’s choices. Governments and Indigenous communities will need to work together to balance addressing this latest crisis and monitoring its actual and potential effects, and continuing to keep in view and work towards ameliorating the inequalities that pervaded society prior to COVID-19. Keeping an open and honest dialogue between governments and Indigenous Australians will be integral to developing messaging that is culturally appropriate and policy that leads to actual, positive, change.


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