Medicine & Health

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  • (2021) Byrne, Bonita
    Background: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to abstain from alcohol than non-Indigenous Australians, however, they are more likely to experience harms related to their own or others’ alcohol use. Factors such as lower socioeconomic status and poorer access to appropriate services have been identified as potential risk factors for increased alcohol-related harms. Another potential factor that has not yet been explored in the published literature is lateral violence as a result of conflict in Aboriginal communities, and how that conflict contributes to alcohol-related harms. Aims: This research investigates the reasons why conflict exists in Aboriginal communities. It explores how conflict is associated with alcohol-related harms experienced by Aboriginal Australians. Methods: A narrative literature review using systematic search strategies was conducted to identify published literature on the association between conflict and substance misuse in Aboriginal communities in Australia. This review searched 14 databases. Abstracts were systematically screened against inclusion criteria. Next, qualitative interviews were conducted with nine Aboriginal Elders and community members to explore their lived experiences with conflict and alcohol-related harms in their communities and potential healing approaches to address this. Interviews were conducted using a yarning method in one-on-one interviews to elicit participants’ stories. A thematic analysis was conducted using inductive and deductive coding. Results: The literature review identified nine studies which considered conflict and its association with substance misuse in Aboriginal communities in Australia. The main factors that contribute to alcohol use, conflict and the association between the two were colonisation, lower socioeconomic status, remoteness and social identity. Key themes from participants’ lived experience with conflict and alcohol-related harms identified in the interviews were: breakdown of family and community due to colonisation and displacement, alcohol use in the community, and experience of racism. Key recommended strategies for healing included cultural programs and increasing respect for Elders. Conclusion: This study furthered our understanding of the effects of colonisation on Aboriginal communities today. It identified how the breakdown of family and kinship ties have contributed to conflict and alcohol-related harms experienced by Aboriginal communities. It points to potential ways to build resilience among Aboriginal communities and prevent alcohol misuse and conflict.