Healthier times?: revisiting Indigenous Australian health history

Health History. 2009;11(2):116-35.


The perception that Indigenous Australians were primitive hunters and gatherers who lived in a nomadic 'Stone Age' culture resonates through most narratives found on Indigenous people in pre-colonial times. This narrative is better placed in the realm of myth; I contest claims that the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians was only forty years in pre-colonial times, by providing suggestive evidence that there is a strong probability that longevity favoured Indigenous Australians in comparison to many poorer sectors of the European population living in slum habitats. As well, I will challenge notions that Indigenous Australians were more violent than supposedly 'civilised' nations. Finally I express the hope that future researchers will revisit archival sources to develop a more nuanced perspective on the past.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Colonialism / history
  • Health Status Disparities
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy / history*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / history*
  • Poverty / history
  • Prejudice