A review of 'traditional' aboriginal health beliefs

Aust J Rural Health. 1999 Nov;7(4):229-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1584.1999.00264.x.


Western health professionals often experience difficulties in service delivery to Aboriginal people because of the disparity between Aboriginal and Western health belief systems. This article reviews the literature which considers 'traditional' Aboriginal health beliefs and medical systems. The traditional Aboriginal model of illness causation emphasises social and spiritual dysfunction as a cause of illness. Supernatural intervention is regarded as the main cause of serious illness. There are gender divisions in Aboriginal society that impact on the delivery of Western healthcare. Management strategies such as preventative care, bush medicine, and the role of traditional healers are discussed. These belief systems are considered with particular reference to their interactions and implications with regard to the Western medical system. This information provides a framework to allow improved understanding by health professionals of the health-related decisions made by Aboriginal people.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Australia
  • Causality
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / psychology*