Indigenous doctor Josef McDonald, who has just graduated from UNSW, plans to focus his career on mental health problems in his community.

The 24-year-old is the third graduate of the Shalom Gamarada residential scholarship program, which offers full board and accommodation at Shalom College to Indigenous students, valued at $17,500 per year.

“The scholarship was crucial. There was no way my family could have afforded for me to study and live in Sydney,” says Dr McDonald.

“It was also important to have that camaraderie with other Indigenous students [who won residential scholarships] at UNSW’s Shalom College. Plus it helped my personal development to have role models among staff, because during my formative years I didn't identify anyone who role modelled the kind of professional behaviour that is expected in medicine."

Josef was the recipient of the Sabina Ross Slater Memorial Medical Scholarship and will start his internship with the Hunter New England Health Service at the end of January.

“I want to continue to work in Newcastle, but ultimately I want to become a psychiatrist, to help with Indigenous mental health.”

The scholarship program began in 2005, initially with the aim of increasing the number of Indigenous doctors, but is now available to Indigenous students across all faculties at UNSW. 

This year, 26 Indigenous students will be studying and living at the College.

“We are thrilled for Josef and his family,” says UNSW’s Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver, who founded the program. “He is the third Shalom Gamarada student to graduate in as many years. It is testament to the success of the program that there will be even more this year.”

The program's first graduate, Dr Beth Kervin, is now working at Liverpool Hospital. She was followed by Jenna Owen, who became the first Indigenous optometrist in NSW.

The scholarships are funded by individual philanthropists, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and the sale of art at the annual Shalom Gamarada exhibition  

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media Office, 0422 934 024