“This paper presents the results of the first two longitudinal historical cradle-to-grave datasets constructed in Australia: the Aboriginal population of the state of Victoria, reconstituted backwards using genealogical research and vital registrations, 1835–1930; and an impoverished European population born at the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital, 1857–1900 and traced until 1985. It investigates the hypothesis that the health transition in indigenous people was different from that of the dominant non-indigenous population. Both of these studied sub-populations were highly stressed, resulting in high infant mortality and persistent tuberculosis mortality. The Aboriginal population suffered the additional burdens of racism and social exclusion, even though after the passage of the 1886 ‘Half-Castes Act’, the majority of Aboriginal Victorians were legally ‘white’. The impact of that legislation and the systematic exclusion of Aboriginal Victorians from federal entitlements in the twentieth century sent the Aboriginal health transition into reverse. The contrasting fates of poor whites and ‘unofficial blacks’ during the health transition demonstrate the health burdens of inequality and racial discrimination, and reveal that ‘the gap’ in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a historical product of long-term government policy and exclusion from citizenship and its entitlements.”