2015 David Maddison Memorial Lecture

16 November 2015

Bringing together health experts from around Australia to discuss the ways in which Indigenous students currently access medical education, the 2015 David Maddison Memorial Lecture held at Watt Street Arc in Newcastle, highlighted the progress towards equity and the barriers that remain for medicine students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.

The University of Newcastle has graduated almost half of Australia’s practising Indigenous doctors since our innovative Joint Medical Program was established in 1976. We’re proud to be Australian leaders in Indigenous medical education, and to be empowering the next generation of Indigenous medical professionals.

While the number of Indigenous doctors has doubled over the past decade, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and doctors remain severely under-represented. Last year, 204 Indigenous doctors were practising in Australia*. For population parity, this number must increase to 2,800.

The David Maddison Memorial Lecture addressed this issue head-on, with a robust discussion around a central pertinent question: Increasing the number of Indigenous medical professionals in Australia: how far have we come, and what barriers remain?

Dr Sarah McEwan flew from Port Hedland, WA to join the discussion. As an Aboriginal UON medicine graduate, Sarah has piercing insight and reams of personal experience to share.

“Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to have much poorer health and much shorter life spans than the population as a whole,” says Dr Sarah McEwan. “The health disparity is stark and requires extensive attention.”

“Increasing the number of Indigenous doctors is an issue of equity, and it could also help improve Indigenous health outcomes. There are still a very small number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in Australia. Ideally it would be fantastic to see population parity.”

The 2015 panel members were:

- Professor Ngiare Brown - one of the first Indigenous medical graduates in Australia and strong advocate for federal government initiatives to attract more Indigenous people into health professions;

- Associate Professor Peter O'Mara - UON Indigenous medicine graduate and Head of Discipline - Indigenous Health at UON;

- Dr Sarah McEwan - UON Indigenous medicine graduate working in Port Hedland, WA and named 2010 Rural Registrar of the Year for her commitment to rural practice;

- Dr Joel Wenitong - Fifth year Indigenous medicine student at UON (at time of lecture), recipient of the Indigenous Collaborations Excellence Award from UON's Faculty of Health and Medicine, and who has worked on public awareness campaigns for the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and NSW Ministry of Health;

- Laureate Professor Robert Sanson-Fisher - Director of UON's internationally recognised Centre for Health Behaviour and co-leader of Hunter Medical Research Institute's Public Health Program.

The David Maddison Memorial Lecture is a free public lecture held every two years and commemorates the contributions of Professor David Maddison, the Foundation Dean of Medicine at the Newcastle Medical School.

This event was proudly supported by the Faculty of Health and Medicine and raised funds for UON's Shaping Futures Scholarships, to help all Australians access education - regardless of their background or circumstances. Believe in education for all Australians? Please donate now.

*Source: Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association