Ellen Engelke
Ellen Engelke

Ellen Engelke

Indigenous Health Scholarship

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

I finished the 2nd half of 2023 in Albany as a member of the RCS program. I continued we my two-week placements until mid-November roughly. Towards the
end of the year the Albany, Warren Blackwood and Narrogin students all attended a camp at Camp Quaranup in Albany. This camp was built in 1875 and once served as a quarantine camp for passengers sailing into Albany. We spent 4 days at the camp with educational sessions throughout the day with time to explore the unique surroundings of the camp. By far my favourite activity over the weekend was orienteering which was essentially 25 students running through vast amounts of bushland. My year in Albany was finalised with a hospital ball. It was a lovely opportunity to say goodbye to the friends I had made over the year.

I returned to Perth mid/end of November in preparation to sit my Curtin end of year exams. It was a jam-packed end of year with many family obligations arising. We had a very relaxed Christmas with my mum’s side of the family before quickly returning to Kununurra a couple days later. I returned to Kununurra to complete my medical school elective which started on the on the 8th of January 2024. Electives are essentially a 4-week rotation of your choosing which you can undertake overseas if you would like.

I completed my elective at home as it allowed me to spend more time with my family, with the bonus of being able to save money for end of year travels. Whilst at home I alternated throughout the areas of the hospital. These areas included the emergency department, the wards, obstetrics and gynaecology and palliative care. One of my favourite experiences was the remote clinics to which visited two communities 4 times each week. The clinics flew into Warmun which is 200km southwest of Kununurra and Kalumburu which is 550km northwest. I thoroughly enjoyed these days as the medicine was vastly different from anything I had experienced previously. I was able to work independently and have a glimpse into what being a doctor in the Kimberly is like.

Whilst at home I also ensured that I made use of the lovely weather and went out looking for waterfalls. It was a nice balance between attending placement during the week and being able to go exploring on the weekends.

Following my elective, I returned to Perth to start my year-based placement at Royal Perth Hospital. At RPH I have two-week rotations ranging across many specialities. I am currently completing my Renal rotation.

I am currently enjoying being back in Perth however it was a big adjustment from my prolonged time in the country. I’m slowly settling back in and both anxious and excited for what this year holds.

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