Reflections on Remote Placement with Apunipima Cape York Aboriginal Health Council

Date published

01 Dec 2019

Firstly, I would like to thank the RFDS and AIDA for awarding me the 2019 Royal Flying Doctor Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health scholarship, as well as Apunipima for allowing me the opportunity to attend this elective placement at their clinics. 

In the air shot of Qantas Plane over remote community

Throughout medical school my driving motivation has been to eventually work in Indigenous communities to improve the health and lives of our people, both in urban centres and remote communities. In November and December of 2019, I was fortunate to be awarded such an opportunity with Apunipima Cape York Aboriginal Health Council where I completed a primary care elective term in the community of Napranum at the Charkil-Om clinic.

Person stands on isolated beach

Practicing medicine in remote communities presented vastly different challenges and learning opportunities. During this placement I worked closely with a range of clinic staff including doctors, nurses, Aboriginal health workers, and Allied Health workers who all provided a wealth of experience and knowledge. From my experiences, one of the clinics greatest strengths were the Aboriginal health workers who beyond their medical roles provided cultural safety for the patients attending the clinic. Drawing on their knowledge I learnt a great deal about working in a remote area and how to build relationships and trust within the community.

Mens space

A personal highlight of my elective placement was attending the clinics men’s group, aimed at providing a culturally safe space for the men in the community to come together to yarn, make artefacts and check in with clinic staff. During my time I was honoured to be take out on country with some of the Traditional Owners to cut spear handles and learn about their country and bush medicines. For me, this opportunity to be welcomed and connect with members of the local community and learn from them was an amazing privilege. Through listening to discussions in the men’s group and seeing the work done by the clinic staff, it was clear how empowering culturally appropriate healthcare can be, highlighting the strength of community driven healthcare initiatives. This is something I will take with me into my future practice and be a strong advocate for.

I am extremely thankful for my time in Napranum and can confidently say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my medical journey to date. It has greatly strengthened my drive to continue bettering myself professionally so that I am able to deliver the best quality healthcare to my patients and work towards closing the gap. Not only will this experience impact my future practice as a doctor but will also allow me to share the knowledge I have gained with my peers, and hopefully impart on them some of the lessons and passion I gained. Looking forward, I am eager to see where my medical journey leads me and I hope that one day I am able to return to Cape York as a Doctor.

Find out more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Scholarship Program