Jewish program supporting indigenous doctors praised in NSW Parliament

September 22, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Residential Scholarship Program, a Jewish organisation has supported 16 Indigenous students become doctors and has improved countless lives, NSW Labor frontbencher Walt Secord told State Parliament this week.

Mr Secord, who is NSW Deputy Opposition Leader in the NSW Legislative Council, Shadow Health Minister and deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel spoke in an adjournment debate in State Parliament about the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Residential Scholarship Program at the University of NSW’s Shalom College, the Jewish residential college.

Shaltom's Dr Hilton Immerman with previous graduates

Shaltom’s Dr Hilton Immerman with previous graduates

He also called for State and Federal Government support for the program.

As of July this year, 27 students had graduated, including 16 doctors – and two more doctors are expected to graduate at the end of the year.

Currently, there are 20 Shalom Gamarada Residential Scholarship holders and another 10 Indigenous students living at the college. They are students primarily studying medicine, but there are also students studying in the fields of business, arts, law and engineering.

In total, some 80 students have benefitted from the program in the past 11 years.

It is an overwhelming successful with a more than 90 per cent pass rate for the entire program.

“It is a testament to what can be achieved when a hunger for knowledge is given simple and careful support,” Mr Secord told State Parliament.

Mr Secord singled out the work of Ms Ilona Lee, Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver, Dr Hilton Immerman and Mr David Spears, as well as a number of their financial supporters and groups who have banded together to fund the scholarships.

Those groups include Medicines Australia, the Gonski Family Foundation, the Jewish Communal Appeal and the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

Walt Secord

Walt Secord

The program was co-founded in 2005 by Ms Ilona Lee and Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver.

Mr Secord said: “It certainly represents a unique friendship between these two New South Wales communities—the Jewish and Aboriginal communities.”

On August 24, Mr Secord sponsored a reception at State Parliament on the program and spoke at a September 12 Shalom College dinner for its students.

The program provides safe accommodation on campus, healthy meals, tutoring and encouragement to assist scholarship holders to stay the course, finish assignments and pass examinations throughout their university career.

Mr Secord who grew up on an Indian reserve in southern Canada before migrating to Australia in September 1988 said he wholeheartedly supported the residential scholarship program.

”Given my personal background and my lifelong connection with the Jewish community, it was one of those occasions where my personal interests in Indigenous matters and Judaism and my public duties as shadow Minister for Health coincided perfectly.

“I know how education changes lives and I know that the program changes lives. Frankly, I wish such a program had existed when I was at university in Toronto in the 1980s—fresh from my father’s Indian reserve. I remember the isolation and lack of emotional support, and I applaud this program that helps bridge the gaps I experienced.”

Mr Secord worked as a journalist at the Australian Jewish News from 1988 to 1991 and was elected to State Parliament in 2011.

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