The University of Newcastle's medical school accepted its first students in 1978. It quickly gained an international reputation for excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. It was a continuation of this process that introduced the Indigenous Medical Entry Program in 1984 producing a great success story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors.
The times were right for establishing the program. The concept of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights was gaining momentum within Australia. In Newcastle, the Awabakal Aboriginal Cooperative was turning into one of the most successful Aboriginal organisations in the country drawing state and federal government support. Within the university, equal opportunity policies were being established and the Wollotuka centre was being developed.
It was in this environment that the vision and wisdom that David Maddison had for medical education in general could flourish. It was under these conditions that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical entry program eventually became a reality under the leadership of Professor Rob Sanson-Fisher and then Dean of Medicine, Professor John Hamilton. With the support of academic staff, Aboriginal Liaison Officers and the Awabakal Co-op members those first very brave students were given an opportunity to succeed in circumstances that many of us would not have dreamed about.
The expansion of the Newcastle medical program to the University of New England means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can apply through the Indigenous Medical Entry Program and choose to study in Armidale. These students are well supported with access to the Oorala Centre at UNE, Wollotuka at Newcastle and the staff in the Discipline of Indigenous Health, School of Medicine and Public Health. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is one of the sickest patient groups in Australia. The JMP is actively encouraging applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with the aim of producing doctors who will help care for these communities.