Ellen Engelke
Ellen Engelke

Ellen Engelke

Indigenous Health Scholarship 2022

Curtin University, WA

Doctor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2021

Sponsored by:
Rotary Club of Como

Indigenous Health Scholarship Program

How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?

I am a proud Kija woman from the East Kimberly. I was raised in Kununurra, a town situated on Miriuwung Gajerrong country, a town which I consider my home and the local people my family. I completed my primary education at the renamed, East Kimberly College and attended boarding school at Iona Presentation College, in Mosman Park. It was from this adjustment in location, that I truly understood how my culturally rich upbringing had influenced my perspective on social norms and idea of community.

Throughout my childhood my parents always stressed the importance of generosity, understanding and equality. For my dad, this was reflected in efforts to reduce unemployment in our town. Giving individuals an opportunity to display their inherent work ethic and become qualified in spite of poor literacy. My mum however, embodied these values differently. She sought to improve the health care received by those within the remote Indigenous communities of the East Kimberly. Her ability to empower most vulnerable in regard to their health, is something I wish to achieve. Allowing my people, the opportunity to understand the status of their health and to feel heard in their opinions However, whilst I complete my Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at Curtin University, my influence is limited to ensuring my family have the basic resources they need such a food and clothes.

I have always recognised myself to be a hard worker, which some may argue is due to a degree of stubbornness, however my driving force is not individual success. Instead, it is the potential that I could benefit the life of another Indigenous Australian. It is my desire to ensure the education I have been blessed with, is not limited to self-improvement but rather the bettering of my entire community.

Despite still only having basic medical knowledge, being surrounding by significant influences, has enabled me to be certain this is an area of work worth every sacrifice. I recognise my skills are limited to reading blood pressure and taking temperature, but I aim to one day channel my background into culturally competent medicine and aid others in doing the same. To one day be included in the movement for equal engagement when discussing health status and to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people within the health care system.

Since commencing medicine, my love for the profession has grown substantially, yet my knowledge of specialisation has not. Although the field of medicine I will work in is still vague, I do know that I want to practice in remote WA. I want to be able assist my people regardless of their tribe or traditions, for when one improves well all do.

I hope for medical practice to universally include culturally training in every student’s education. An ideal which I describe to be recognising the ways in which our people are similar but valuing the beauty in our differences.

Current Progressive Report

The first half of this year I have spent studying in Albany as a part of the RCS program and undergoing my clinical placement at the Albany Health Campus. My placement in Albany consists of two-week rotations in each section of the hospital and community health providers. I have worked throughout the hospital, within the local GP clinics and the Aboriginal Health Service.

One thing I have learnt about the people that work in healthcare in Albany, is that they are all lovely and exceptionally hardworking. It has also been made been made apparent this year is that medical students (such as myself) are hard work; we take up time, don’t really know what we are doing and more often than not we will do it wrong. But despite this everyone has been incredibly understanding and super keen to help.

I must admit the weather was an adjustment. People continued to tell me at the start of the year that Albany has 7 seasons in one day, a statement which I have a newfound appreciation for. I have since learnt to never trust a weather forecast and just to keep a collection of jumpers, coats, and beanies in the care because you never really know what weather you’ll get each day. There are a couple benefits of the current cold winter – one being that its perfect fire weather and the other being that you are now able to go whale watching.

Albany itself is a sporty town with football being the most watched local sport. I played in the females league whose season was at the start of the year, which thankfully meant we avoided playing in the freezing cold. My team made it to the grand final which is easily in the top 5 highlights of this year. Following the footy season, I now play in a social netball team which consists mainly of healthcare staff who come from all different parts of the hospital.

Earlier in the year I did also have the privilege of being invited to speak at one of the local Rotary’s meetings. I did a small talk with photos of home and my year thus far. There were options to ask questions following this with the most popular question being about how am I coping with the weather given my Kimberly origin.

I have another 6 months left in Albany with the year being concluded with exams back in Perth. I am looking forward to a metro hospital placement, however, know that I will miss this region of the state. Despite its cold weather I have grown to love the Great Southern and hope to return here to work in the near future.

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