Sydney-based Notre Dame University medical student, Mitchell Gordon, first became fascinated by the Australian Indigenous culture when he assisted with photography workshops in the remote central Australian regions of Imanpa and Yulara. He was able to expand on that interest recently as a recipient of a scholarship to attend one of Northern Territory General Practice Education’s cultural immersion camps, held on the Murumburr clan’s country on the edge of the Jim Jim river system.
Mitchell said the cultural immersion camp emphasised the brilliance, diversity, and complexity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures, and this essence was difficult to encapsulate in any branch of new-age medicine
“Rarely are we lucky enough as medical students to have the opportunity to actually experience what it feels like to be on country,” Mitchell said.
“Finding a way for these two worlds to synergise is an issue that my generation of future doctors will have to tackle with fresh minds, and programs like the NTGPE cultural immersion camps are an important catalyst towards positive reform of our current models of western healthcare.”
Camp participants joined NTGPE’s Cultural Educators and traditional owner, Mandy Muir, for four days on Mandy’s ancestral country for an insight into the traditional lives, spirituality and culture of Aboriginal Australians. Camp highlights included visits to Aboriginal community clinics, pandanus weaving, didgeridoo making and bush tucker preparation; as well as lessons in kinship, traditional medicine and cultural safety.
“Around Kakadu the sheer volume of the Aboriginal culture is so substantial, you can feel it reverberate through your bones as you walk and feel it on your skin when the sun shines on and on,” Mitchell said.
“One of the cultural educators explained how she liked to spend time on country to ‘recharge her batteries’,” Mitchell said. “I think I can say for certain that we all did the same on that trip; leaving us reinvigorated and inspired to use our experiences to help shape our future clinical practice.”
Mitchell said he felt that, to help Indigenous Australian communities more effectively, he needed to gain an understanding of Aboriginal peoples' perspectives, their challenges and their motivations.
"As a general practitioner in Australia, addressing the social injustice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is the area of highest need," Mitchell said.
"General practice has the most potential of all medical specialties to benefit Indigenous communities, as GPs are often at the coal face of closing the gap on health outcomes.
"Where conventionally, I had learnt about the ailments Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people live with and are more prone to, the immersion experience began to help me grasp what these same people have to live for."
If you’re are a medical student who’s interested in joining an NTGPE Cultural Immersion Camp, please register your interest with our Cultural Education team at email@example.com