On 16 March, UNSW’s Rural Clinical Campus in Albury conducted a Reconciliation & Relationship event with Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS). The event, which fell on national Closing the Gap day, recognised the importance of this partnership now and into the future.

AWAHS is a non-profit organisation that was developed to cater for the primary health care needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families. UNSW and AWAHS have been partnering to enable student cultural education and build clinical expertise when caring for and treating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. This type of training for doctors and health workers is critical to addressing systemic health inequity.

The event included a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, speeches from members of the community and guided journey along the Yindyamarra sculpture walk. 

Darren Wighton at the smoking ceremony. Photo: Julianne Weatherly.

There was also an unveiling of artwork by Aboriginal Elder Uncle Sam Wickman, who is an AWAHS staff member and cultural advisor. The painting, titled ‘Warloo Pooku’ (Fire Ceremony), symbolises the positive future for the relationship between UNSW and AWAHS. The artwork will be displayed on the Rural Clinical Campus. 

‘It was a great launch and the pre and post proceedings of the day were very well organised. I would like to congratulate UNSW Albury campus for all their efforts and look forward to working with them and their students in the near future,” Uncle Sam said.  

Uncle Sam’s artwork, titled ‘Warloo Pooku’ (Fire Ceremony), was unveiled at the event. Photo: Julianne Weatherly.

Looking forward, UNSW is looking to integrate more opportunities for students to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and health care. With the support of AWAHS, UNSW is expanding our teaching program at the Rural Clinical Campus to include a 2-day cultural education workshop. We are also identifying opportunities to increase the frequency of medical student placements with AWAHS.

In the near future, a pilot longitudinal placement program for Year 3 medical students will commence at AWAHS, providing students the opportunity to engage in longer term care. It is anticipated the student experience and learning within this program will encourage more medical students to consider a career as a rural doctor whilst also graduating with a deeper knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care.

Header photo caption: Uncle Sam Wickman, Year 5 medical student Megan Torpey & Dr Mark Norden (Director of Medical Education, UNSW Rural Clinical Campus, Albury). Photo: Julianne Weatherly.