NAIDOC Week 2014: Spirituality linked to better indigenous health

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A spiritual concept of ‘country’ is linked to health @Glowimages

Beloved Australian ABC gardening show host, Peter Cundall, is now retired. But when interviewed by Scott Stephens on Life’s Big Questions a year or two ago, he equated religious/spiritual teaching on a par with fairy stories.

It’s ironic really, because it seems to me that Peter’s joy for life and gratitude for every tiny evidence of good in his days is what has ensured his perfect health for more than 50 years. To me, this is spirituality in action!

I can see a similarity between Peter’s spirituality and that of aboriginal peoples. I’ve just re-read a discussion paper, Spirituality and Aboriginal People’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing: A Review (2009) published by the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

By no means an expert on this subject, I learned from the Review that many Australian aborigines cannot comprehend a single event or element of this world without also considering its spiritual implications.

They traditionally maintain health and wellbeing by finding their kurunpa, or deep spirit, which includes establishing their inter-connectedness with the universe as well as unconditionally loving and respecting friends and family.

Considering this practice in the context of the broader community, a 2011 VicHealth report implies that individuals with strong spiritual faith who experience the freedom to practice their spirituality have the potential to experience a range of positive health effects that are associated with their religion or belief.

No wonder that holistic health care, which takes into account the spirituality and social and emotional wellbeing of the individual within the whole community, has the best results in Aboriginal communities. The discussion paper states that healing for Aborigines stems not just from addressing a physical symptom, but from reclaiming their true identity.

It seems to me that the Western world has lost this recognition of the importance of spirituality to the minutiae of our lives – and this has been to our detriment.

Might the recognition that “a spiritual viewpoint is essential to the wellbeing of people, animals and the environment” also hold the key to our management of many of today’s global problems?

Personally, as in so many indigenous cultures, I find that I need to daily find my kurunpa or deep spirit as the child of a higher power. Moment by moment affirmations of the nearness, allness and power of the Divine keep me centred (in my right place and ‘country’).

The Review adds support to the Biblical message that the realisation of this loving relationship to the Divine and doing unto others as we’d have them do to us, keeps us healthy.

It sums up with this statement: “recognising spirituality is critical to Aboriginal wellbeing.”

Have you considered that it may be the same for us all?

This article is a modified version of an earlier blog. It has been published on these APN websites: Toowoomba Chronicle, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Bundaberg NewsMail, Lismore Northern Star, Ballina Advocate, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Warwick Daily News


  1. Diana Trinder says

    Thank you for writing about “kurunpa or deep spirit which includes establishing their inter-connectedness with the universe as well as unconditionally loving and respecting friends and family. This concept of the intrinsic awareness of indigenous Australians is an important one. I feel that this understanding or awareness of our complete make-up would improve the health of all people and nations everywhere.

    • health4thinkers says

      Thanks for commenting, Diana. Maybe many of us intrinsically know this after all …. but feel embarrassed to share these spiritual insights. In the 21st Century, we’ll hopefully conquer this reticence and move a step forward in embracing better health.

  2. BarkerValmai says

    Thank you Kay for this clear insight into true spirituality. The world seems to be shifting its concept of spirituality into a more positive way of thinking, (as opposed to just ” going throughout the motions”), i.e. religious beliefs that really mean something in our everyday lives, and are not just something to bring out once a week at a church service. I love that you are willing to explore other cultures and their spirituality, as I believe this is the way for seeing true harmony in spirit.

  3. Peter J Wilson says

    Hi Kay you have hit the nail right on the head. People mistake religious organizations and dogma for true religious progress. They take it on them selves to judge religious people, by a standard they are not trying to attain for them selves. Aiming to attain a spiritual standpoint does not guarantee an automatic advancement to that point but requires consecration to reach the higher goal. Like the kurunpa of the Aboriginal peoples, they wont move with out consulting their spiritual inner self. This is like consecration to God. It oils the movement of body and soul into harmony and happiness.

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