Katherine residents are collectively losing thousands of years of life to premature death, with poor local Indigenous health outcomes being a major contributor to these lost years.
New research from Torrens University shows Katherine lost 4340 years of life to people dying before the age of 75 between 2014 and 2018.
This is 2.25 times higher than the national average.
The median age of death in Katherine was 65, far below the nationwide median age of 81 but higher than the broader regional Australian median age of death at 60.
Torrens University's John Glover conducted the research and said these lost years of life can be attributed to high proportions of Indigenous people, of which many suffer from chronic health conditions.
"Katherine has a slightly higher proportion of Indigenous people in its population than the rest of the Territory at 32.8 per cent, as opposed to 30.3," he said.
Professor Glover said the association between a lower median age at death, socioeconomic disadvantage and the proportion of the population who are Indigenous is very strong across the NT.
"The gap is widening because whatever policies we're taking aren't getting through," he said.
"It's very much harder in regions like Katherine and surrounding regions in terms of the opportunities... and disinheritance really overlays it and makes the whole thing difficult."
Katherine Indigenous advocate and Gurindji man Kamahi-Djordon King said his own lived experience aligns with Professor Glover's research.
He said western diets introduced during Australia's colonial history and poor education for generations of Indigenous people are major contributors to poor health outcomes.
He said Indigenous people's bodies do not efficiently process the food consumed by the majority of Australians.
"I'm diabetic, because of western food when I was younger.
"Even fruit, we never really had that much fruit [traditionally], and the bush fruit we do get isn't on the sugar scale."
Mr King said photos from the colonial era showcase the decline in healthy diet and health for Indigenous Australians.
"Look at old photos, every single one of them black-fellas then has a six-pack and is solid and skinny," he said.
"But now, you look at us and we're big, a lot of us have got diabetes and other ailments."
Mr King said these poor health outcomes are an ongoing symptom of colonialism and the gap between First Nation's people and the rest of the population.
"That whole denial thing is stopping people from moving forward," Mr King said.
"I'm just sick of it, I don't need to educate white people on why they should close the gap, they should educate themselves, we're not the problem."
Professor Glover agrees his research should be used by policy-makers to meet Closing the Gap targets.
However, he highlighted the high rate of premature deaths in Katherine is also affecting non-Indigenous people, even if it is to a lesser extent than First Australians.
He said higher suicide rates in regional Australia, as well as longer travel distances which results in more fatal traffic collisions in regional areas are some of the contributors to premature death which affect all people.
Professor Glover said premature death rates have declined in the past 30 years, but the gap between affluent areas and poor socioeconomic areas has consistently widened.
"The gap in premature mortality was narrowing until the mid-nineties and since the mid-nineties the gap between the most disadvantaged in Australia... and the most well of areas has widened.
"The premature mortality rate has dropped, but the gap has widened."
The median age of death between 2014 and 2018 in the Casuarina area of Darwin was the NT's highest at 76, while in Alice Springs it was 66 and the NT's lowest median age was in the Elsey, Gulf and Victoria River regions at 56.
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