12th Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture 2011

Marcia Langton
Professor Marcia Langton
B.A. (Hons) ANU, PhD Macq. U.,
A.M., F.A.S.S.A.

Professor Marcia Langton, Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne, presented Culture, custom, modernity and health: a nexus of factors in the status of Aboriginal children.

The most vulnerable citizens of the Northern Territory are Aboriginal babies. Unable to feed themselves and given insufficient nutrition for normal growth, at the very beginning of their lives they suffer hunger and they are unable to develop normally. Growth failure or growth faltering is the principal manifestation of malnutrition in children

These babies are caught between two tides of history. On the one hand, they have been swept up by the tide of the past. Their parents and ancestors were the victims of such a disruption of normal life, brought about by colonisation, enforced segregation in managed reserves and missions, removal of children from families, extreme exclusion from the economy and poverty, that they were deprived of the knowledge or commonsense of parenting duties and responsibilities, from feeding weaning babies to basic hygiene. On the other hand, they will be swept along by an ill tide into an unhappy future.

Already biophysically affected by undernourishment and growth faltering, their capacity to take up opportunities for a happy, productive life will be limited. They are very sick children with an uncertain future.

Their experience is one of suffering from birth to adulthood, and if they make it beyond adulthood, from there on their lives are similarly blighted.

In this Vincent Lingiari Lecture, I ask: how should we respond to improve measurable, identified problems without entrenching passivity and dependency and worsening the situation, or making these expensive interventions permanent? The agency and sense of responsibility of community members is a vital ingredient in their success.

The critical question is: How to involve family and community members in health interventions so that they are taking responsibility for their own health and that of their children?

Lecture resources

 the lecture or listen to the lecture below.

Read the enews story Lingiari lecture proposes systemic change to Indigenous health.

About Professor Marcia Langton

An anthropologist and geographer, Professor Langton has made significant contributions to Indigenous studies at three universities, government and non-government policy and administration. Her work in anthropology and the advocacy of Aboriginal rights was recognised in 1993 when she was made a member of the Order of Australia.

Marcia Langton has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since February 2000. She is in the Centre for Health & Society in the School of Population Health of the Medical Faculty.

She became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2001 and was awarded the inaugural Neville Bonner Award for Indigenous Teacher of the Year in 2002. She was awarded a PhD from Macquarie University in 2005. She is also a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), a member of the Board of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership and Chair of the Museums and Galleries of the Northern Territory Board. In 2011 she became a member of the Expert Panel on Recognition of Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.