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Diabetes, Kidney Failure and Indigenous Australians

Updated on January 7, 2019

This young girl, aged two when the photo was taken, is almost certain to develop type 2 diabetes by the time she is in her thirties. During the past fifty years, diabetes has become one of the most life threatening diseases for the modern day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian. Obtaining accurate data on the exact number of Aboriginals with type 2 diabetes is difficult, due partly to the large number of people living in remote areas and an ever present wariness of western conventional medical facilities.

The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes in any society are obesity, genetics and diet. In the indigenous population poverty also plays a part. According to statistics it has been estimated that between 10%-30% of the Aboriginal population have the disease. With these figures it means to be born in Australia as an Aboriginal the possibility of contracting type 2 diabetes is two to four times higher than for non-indigenous Australians. There is also a greater chance of Aboriginal women presenting with gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Why are the Rates so High?

It is believed to be the drastic changes to lifestyle and diet as well as the introduction of alcohol and tobacco that is responsible for such high incidences of Aboriginal people presenting with diabetes. Before European settlement, family groups would walk from one area to the next in search of food that was rich in protein and nutrients. There was no tobacco or alcohol and only a small percentage of the diet contained fatty foods. For many, today’s diet is focussed on quick and easy fried take-away meals.

Kidney Failure Needs Dialysis Treatment

If diabetes is left untreated, as it is in many cases of the indigenous population, the result is, more often than not, chronic kidney disease. The only way to prevent kidney failure is by receiving dialysis treatment for the rest of the diabetic’s life. In the more remote areas of Australia this in itself creates further problems due to vast distances between home and the major medical centres that provide treatment.

Distance between the two main hospitals in the Northern Territory is nearly 1,500 kilometres while in Western Australia the gaps are even wider. For people living on communities getting to and from town for treatment can involve driving hundreds of kilometres over unsealed roads.

The Only Two Towns Offering Dialysis Treatment in Northern Territory Alice Springs and Darwin

Alice Springs:
Alice Springs NT 0870, Australia

get directions

Distance between the two major towns in the Northern Territory is 1498 kilometres or an 18 hour drive.

Darwin NT, Australia

get directions

Darwin Hospital is a long way from remote communities

What can be done?

This is a disease that has been 200 years in the making and will not be going away over night. The first steps toward lowering the number of Aboriginal people with diabetes is awareness and detection before the kidneys begin to fail. Health clinics on Aboriginal communities have improved greatly in recent years but there is still a long way to go to promote changes in lifestyle that will have major long term affects.

Information for this article has been taken from various websites around Australia. Help and resources are available through the following links.

Travel from Home to Hospital

The distances between home and hospital are great over unsealed or inadequate roads. There will be flat tyres and break downs along the way. All the pitfalls that go with getting to hospital for dialysis treatment add to the stress of the condition.

Remote Australia at its Best and Worst

Click thumbnail to view full-size
80kms east of Alice SpringsSomewhere in the TerritoryUnsealed roadUnfenced roadsSecond flat tyre in an hour
80kms east of Alice Springs
80kms east of Alice Springs | Source
Somewhere in the Territory
Somewhere in the Territory | Source
Unsealed road
Unsealed road | Source
Unfenced roads
Unfenced roads | Source
Second flat tyre in an hour
Second flat tyre in an hour | Source

© 2010 Karen Wilton


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    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      8 years ago from Australia

      It is truly sad Mura Mura ARt that those who live in less fortunate circumstances are less likely to receive the additional care they need. It seems no matter what is done it is never enough - the damage is huge. Appreciate your comment and hope that things may change in the near future.

    • Mura Mura Art profile image

      Mura Mura Art 

      8 years ago

      It's saddening to read. Thank you for enlightening us and sharing this hub. It will help to gain awareness and hopefully help to better the circumstances of the those affected by these diseases.

    • Politico Expert profile image

      Politico Expert 

      9 years ago from Europe

      If you find out and write a hub on it, I would be very interested to read it, thanks :) There is a strong suggestion it has something to do with the chemicals used in sugar production, but no proof as yet.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Interesting question Politico Expert. I doubt that the sugar cane workers affected by kidney failure would be Aboriginal but would need to research this for confirmation. You certainly have given me somethinng to think about and persue further.

    • Politico Expert profile image

      Politico Expert 

      9 years ago from Europe

      I have a hub about the unprecedented rate of kidney disease among sugar cane workers in Nicaragua, none of which started of with diabetes. During my research, I came across references to kidney failure among Australian sugar cane workers which is on the rise, but couldn't find out much more. Would those affected be Aboriginals? I don't know. Interesting all the same that they start off with type 2 diabetes which is something the Nicaraguans are too poor to ever develop!

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      It's true sparklesky, many people could greatly improve their health simply from adjusting their diet and increasing activity. I am sorry to hear about your father. One of the problems with diabetics is they crave the food that is bad for them. Thank you for reading.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Your hub was heartbreaking. So many people are needlessly sick due to poor eating habits. My father is going blind and having numbness in his legs, yet refuses to stop eating sugar and having a bad diet. In many cases diabetes can be eliminated or greatly diminished by adapting a healthy diet. If people stop eating flour and sugar, processed food (loaded with sugar and other nasty stuff), and start eating veggies and whole, unprocessed foods.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Indigenous health issues in Australia are a long way from being resolved CMHypno. I worry for the new generation and the race in general. Apart from the inability to easily access medical centres, lifestyle and alcohol abuse are slowly destroying any chance at a quality of life for the Australian Aboriginal.

    • CMHypno profile image


      10 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      We tend to forget living in a small, densely island like the UK, the huge distances that can be involved in accessing services like medical care in countries like Australia. But it is sad that in this modern world, because of lifestyle issues like diet and lack of exercise, many children are now doomed to die at a younger age than their parents fro the first time in a couple of centuries

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Definitely local and organic food is a step in the right direction for anyone with diabetes. I would be interested in the statistics for your claim to remove diabetes with supplements.

    • pressingtheissue profile image


      10 years ago from Pa

      Very informative. Did you know that a us study recently reported that around 80% of the us population will be diabetic by 2020? Very scary..Eat as much local and organic food as possible. Try to get a great source of real minerals into your system every day. If you go on a all natural all mineral supplement for 2-5 days your Diabetes will disappear! Really.. I'm serious.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Frogyfish we all need to follow your example with those wonderful home cooked suppers. So much of what goes in to the convenient ready made meals is only adding to a world wide health issue.

    • frogyfish profile image


      10 years ago from Central United States of America

      A well-spoken piece of large truth here!

      Now, all of us need to get with it and live nutritionally! That ounce of prevention is well worth the consequences.

      Thank you for a great article.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Good to see you here Praetio30. We do rely so much on governments to do the right thing when it comes to health issues. Sadly in Australia there is an uphill battle with making things better for the indigenous population.

      Blessings and hugs to you.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for commenting Neverletitgo. Lovely of you stop by and read. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      10 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This is great information from you. I always sympathy with diabetes. This also become an international issue with many patients from day by day. I am so sad if this also happen to children. Kidney failure also as the most expensive disease in my country. I hope the best for us and the government give attention to give medical treatment to the patients.....amen.

      Blessing and hugs,

    • Neverletitgo profile image

      Abdinasir Aden 

      10 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      This is great hub, thanks for sharing this nice piece.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      onegoodwoman thank you for reading. Diabetes has become such a problem world wide and mostly due to lifestyle. People need more of your home cooked meals and less of the take outs.

      If we start with the children perhaps the next generation will have a better chance.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Thank you b.Malin. I am so glad you enjoyed the read. Yes, education is the key to this and other health issues and there never seems to be enough being done to get the message out there.

    • onegoodwoman profile image


      10 years ago from A small southern town

      Diabetes is on the rise in the States

      as well. Alcohol and fatty foods

      flow like raging rivers here.

      The little girl in the photo is adorable!

      Thanks for promoting the message, we tend

      to take a closer look when it involves

      children ~~

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      10 years ago

      Another enlightening read! Education, Education is always the answer...and getting out the message...thank you.


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