Journal of Population Research

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 9–30 | Cite as

How colonisation determines social justice and Indigenous health—a review of the literature

  • Kalinda GriffithsEmail author
  • Clare Coleman
  • Vanessa Lee
  • Richard Madden


Disparities in health status persist for Indigenous people in Australia. In the bid to reduce the disparity gap, the concept of achieving social justice is central to advancing the services and systems that can challenge inequitable circumstances within a nation. Colonisation is well known as the underlying factor influencing the social injustices that result in inequitable health for Indigenous people. A literature review was conducted identifying how the colonial impact on social justice is described in the relationships with the health of Indigenous Australians. A comprehensive search strategy was developed, including four broad search terms of ‘Indigenous people’ and ‘health status’ and ‘colonisation’ or ‘social justice’, and applied within five databases. Publications were limited to Australia, dated from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2014. The literature acknowledging the effect that colonisation has on Indigenous Australians includes evidence from oral and political histories, and social determinants frameworks. There was a general consensus that the impact of colonisation on the health of Indigenous people is highly complex and that the legacies are experienced intra-generationally and inter-generationally. There is paucity in the evidence that examines the associations of colonisation and its impact on social injustice. Because social justice is considered central to equitable practices across all sectors in society (health, education, legal etc.), questions are raised about the magnitude of the effect that colonisation has on health disparities and importantly how the desideratum to tackle disparities that have stemmed from colonisation are adequately addressed.


Colonisation Health Disparities Inequalities Indigenous health 



The Sydney Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, funded by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Indigenous Services and Strategy and Services within the Wingura Mura-Bunga Barrabugu strategy at the University of Sydney.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kalinda Griffiths
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clare Coleman
    • 1
  • Vanessa Lee
    • 2
  • Richard Madden
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Sydney Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander StatisticsUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre for the Classification of DiseaseUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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