Indigenous Health Scholarship 2019

Monash University, VIC
Bachelor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2019
Sponsored by:

Rotary Club of Belgrave & Dr King Gan

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

I grew up in a country town just outside of Ballarat (VIC), physically distanced from my community in the Warungu tribe in Ceduna (SA), but accepted by my local Wathaurong tribe. Through my mother, uncle and grandmother, all nurses, I learnt the art of caring, and the importance of caring for someone’s body. Through my grandfather, I learnt the importance of caring for someone’s spirit.

My grandfather set up a health centre that incorporates cultural sensitivity in the care of patients. I then watched as he himself was treated in this facility, and the difference he displayed when transferred into the hospital he was fearful of as a child of the stolen generation. Seeing how culture is integral as a young child was vital, instilling me with a drive to use my culture as a health care professional, whether as a nurse like my mother, or as the first doctor from my community, as well as educating my peers and colleges to help make this common practice.

With this health sensitive background I want to use my career to help make people with Indigenous heritage feel safe in a hospital. I aspire to work either in Emergency, or Anaesthetics, both fields that require great communication skills to encourage a patient to trust in your best intentions as a doctor. I aspire to provide comfort and advocacy for patients as a fellow Koori person in the room, excluding a sense of bias that can be difficult to rule out from people outside of the community.

I have used my position within my workforce to help open discourses about the realities of being an Indigenous identifying person in modern Australia.  In 2018 alone, as well as being a local AIDA representative at my university, I wrote international and domestic policies on cultural sensitivity, helped create a conference around Indigenous Healthcare realities, presented on a panel at a national conference, represented AIDA at a national organisation meeting, and campaigned to create funding to send students from my university to an international first nations conference. This is all advocacy work I intend to continue with in the future.

I aspire to have the courage to advocate for patients that may be being treated with unconscious bias because of their ATSI label. I have witnessed this affecting treatment choices, and to explaining chronic illnesses. I hope to help stop this in the future, and stand up to people who believe this behaviour to be the norm, rather than see it for the racism it is. By speaking on behalf of my patients and people to a medical team, I hope to raise awareness for others on the team that this is something required of them, and to question the status quo.

In conclusion, I wish to use my medical training to assist in the health care of all my patients, respecting the spiritual as well as physical health of my patients, and to assist my colleges in forming a comprehension of this requirement.

Current Progressive Report

I’m very proud to share that my most recent semester at University has been my strongest to date. I exceeded my high standard from semester one (two H1 marks; H1 being 80% or above). This semester I achieved a H1 grade for all four of my subjects. Furthermore, I earned 89% for my Indigenous Peoples unit, which is my highest mark ever achieved at university. My scores for the remaining three subjects ranged between 83% – 84%.

As detailed in my previous letter, I also successfully completed a four-month field placement at Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative in Shepparton from May to September 2016. While I enjoyed living in Shepparton, it was a pleasure to return to Melbourne for semester two. I returned to Melbourne with a new confidence in my abilities as a social worker.

This new confidence led to me apply for a part-time role as case manager at the youth organisation, Whitelion. In my role as a “Tiddas Coordinator” I work with young Aboriginal girls in Melbourne to provide support and mentoring to enable these girls to work through crises, build links to drug and alcohol services and maximise positive outcomes from the Criminal Justice System. It is because of the support provided by Rotary that I have been able to limit my work commitments to one day a week, and achieve academically.

The most exciting development of 2016 was being accepted into a cultural exchange with the universities of Northern Arizona and Arizona State University in the USA. This was a dream come true for me. Over the holiday break, I travelled with fellow Aboriginal students and university employees to the States and visited many Indigenous communities – sharing stories, learning traditions and making life-long friends.