Sarita Scholarship Placement Reflections

Sarita's Reflections - Placement in Nhulunbuy

Date published

28 Oct 2021

I would like to thank RFDS and AIDA for their support through the Royal Flying Doctor Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health scholarship.  

Support from this and other scholarships meant that I was not restricted in my choice or rural/remote placements, and I was able to relocate my three children and I from Darwin to complete a semester long rural/remote community-based placement in Nhulunbuy.  I would also like to acknowledge the Yolŋu people as the traditional owners of approximately 550,000ha of Northeast Arnhem Land, and Gove District Hospital, Miwatj Health and Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation for allowing me to undertake my remote placement in and around Nhulunbuy.

Despite having lived and worked remote previously I had not previously worked or lived in Northeast Arnhem Land before, and I am appreciative of having been allowed this experience as part of my medical training. 

Sarita Lawler Opening Ceremony of Dhupuma Barker in Gunyangara North-East Arnhem Land

Overall, it was a very rewarding experience. Two of my personal goals during the placement were to: gain a better Understand how health needs of ATSI people can be best met in an area where accessibility to health services is limited and; build clinical practice skills with a better understanding of what is appropriate and culturally safe and accessible service in a remote region that has a higher ATSI population proportion than Darwin and which services many more remote Aboriginal communities and I believe that I was able to work towards both of these.  I also acknowledge that these will be ongoing areas of learning and that these will vary depending on where I choose to work and who I am working with.

A third goal was to and be a role model to others in making healthy decisions, and to inspire them to achieve their dreams and to promote medicine as an obtainable career path for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and I hope through sharing my story with people I met along the way in East Arnhem Land I was able to do this.

Other highlights of my experience were:

  • Staff willingness to teach
  • Commendable multidisciplinary approach to patient care involving various allied health teams.  The holistic approach to patient care and the meaningful interactions between colleagues and knowledge surrounding each other’s roles and limitations within the workplace created a very positive working environment whereby all disciplines were valued for their unique area of expertise
  • Staff and community being very friendly and especially those also with young children being very welcoming to my children and I
  • Exploring the beautiful areas in and around Nhulunbuy
  • Being invited to local events, especially those embracing local Aboriginal culture.  Such a privilege to be a part of.
  • Gaining a better sense of whether remote work still suits my family…and we loved it!

Back in Darwin I can now communicate to patients from those areas that I am a little bit familiar with where they are from geographically.  I can also appreciate some of the social, demographic, environment and cultural factors that may influence their health and wellbeing and the health systems that are accessible to them on their return home.  In addition, I can share this knowledge with my work colleagues to improve their awareness.  I hope that this will assist them when considering their patients care, especially when these factors have become barriers to managing care and improving health outcomes.My sincere thanks again to RFDS and AIDA for their support through the Royal Flying Doctor Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Scholarship