SAMANTHA DONOVAN: I understand that the study did actually find that poor health outcomes in Aboriginal communities aren't necessarily due to a lack of knowledge about what are the good habits for good health.
FRAN BAUM: No, we certainly talked to people and no-one was saying, oh dear, you know, that's news to us that smoking affects our health. I mean it's a very complex picture of why people continue to smoke despite the fact that they know that it's damaging to their health. And the research around the world has shown that is to do with, you know, how you feel about yourself, how you are treated, how you are respected, you know, what's going in the rest of your life. So in a way it's like the smoking, drinking is the tip of the iceberg but what's really going to make the difference is going below the iceberg and looking at all those other factors that create a situation where people are more likely to smoke.
And I mean one of the things we found is that, and this reflects other data, is that Aboriginal people are less likely to drink than other Australians, quite considerably so.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: And I understand the reports also recommended that Aboriginal culture is embraced when dealing with mental health issues. How would that be done?
FRAN BAUM: Very much so. Well when we consulted widely with people working in Aboriginal health, one, rather than talking about mental illness, they talk about trying to achieve social and emotional wellbeing. And many people pointed us, to us that the sort of traditional Western model of health seems to cut people into their component parts and it was stressed to us that an Aboriginal cultural view is about seeing the whole person; you know, the physical, spiritual, mental, cultural, emotional, social dimensions of your life. And so there was a call from the people we spoke to for health services to embrace that approach. And indeed we heard of Aboriginal-controlled health services that actually manage to do that and do have fantastic programs that do get people to examine their history, to work together in family and community groups and look at the social roots of mental illness.