Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bridges Over Chasms - A student writes...

I was thrilled to hear from my friend, colleague and naked doctor (yes, he tells me he really is naked under all those clothes) Justin Coleman this week. He has been using the #Supertwision conversations with his registrar and medical students. One of his students, Susanna Rossotti, wrote this for us as a result of her attachment at Inala in Brisbane.

I admire her passion. There's a sense in GP registrars and medical students coming through that the current situation is unjust and must be changed. There is never any doubt that it will be, or any doubt that they will be involved in changing it. Like them, I am also very optimistic. It's one of the few issues currently on which we have bipartisan support, a real achievement in the current political climate. Tomorrow there will be a record number of events - close to 1000 - held for National Close the Gap day. The gap in health outcomes is one that will be closed. And that can't come soon enough.

Bridges over Chasms
By Susanna Rossotti, 4th yr med student, Griffith University

One of my primary motivations for beginning this journey in medicine was to provide health care to people in disadvantaged communities. I had heroic visions of working for Medecins sans Frontiers in countries ravaged by war or natural disasters. Little did I know that there was a natural disaster still unfolding within the apparent safe confines of the beautiful sunburnt country that is Australia. This natural disaster is not of the variety that garners short-lived sensationalism by media, or any sort of significant mainstream media attention at all. But it is cataclysmic nonetheless. It is the state of affairs for the first custodians of Australia. These custodians successfully lived in some of the harshest conditions and their inherent respect for the land and their natural environment ensured its pristine preservation until the arrival of the white fella. While I still have much to learn about what happened to the indigenous custodians of Australia, I have learnt enough to feel that their very functional traditional way of life has been destroyed. Their social fabric, their culture, their sense of self respect and worth has been severely battered. No human being, regardless of race, could survive such a battering without crippling emotional wounds and scars with inevitable sequelae for physical and mental health.

I am a white fella and I have struggled for some time to define what it is that draws me to indigenous health. Today I may finally have arrived at a definitive answer: I perceive an enormous miscarriage of social justice which threatens the very survival of one the world’s most ancient people. On a global level, I want to help them work towards preservation of their existence in the gene pool. On a local level, I want to help build bridges over chasms that have opened between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. I want to show indigenous people that I respect and value their heritage. I want to learn more about who these amazing first custodians are. And I want to take what I learn back to my non-indigenous friends and colleagues, in the hope that this will further help to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

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