Do Aboriginal Australians suffer from ‘existential aimlessness’?

According to The Age‘s report, one passage in particular of Brendan Nelson’s ‘sorry’ speech seemed to upset the crowds watching the broadcast:

Alcohol, welfare without responsibilities, isolation from the economic mainstream, corrupt management of resources, nepotism, political buck-passing between governments with divided responsibilities, lack of home ownership, under-policing and tolerance by authorities of neglect and abuse of children that violates all we stand for, all combine to still see too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living lives of existential aimlessness. [emphasis added]

I associate ‘existential aimlessness’ with European intellectuals rather than Aboriginal Australians, but I think I understand what Nelson is getting at. This is that the dismal physical conditions and limited life prospects of many Aborigines must lead to a disproportionate number suffering from the psychological maladies that flow from meaninglessness and hopelessness. But the literature on well-being and ill-being suggests caution in inferring mental states from living conditions.

For example, the 2004-05 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey asked various well-being questions of its respondents. 7% said that they felt ‘without hope’ all or most of the time, and another 13% said that they felt that way some of the time. But 62% said that they felt that way none of the time.
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