NSW Labor to support Shalom Gamarada indigenous scholarship program

August 8, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A NSW Labor Government will fund up to six scholarships for Indigenous medical doctors through a highly successful program sponsored by Sydney’s Jewish community and Shalom College at the UNSW.

Walt Secord with Ms Tahlia McKee (studying law), Dr Josef McDonald and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris

NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord made the announcement at the annual reception for the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Residential Scholarship Program at State Parliament.

The program assists Australian Indigenous students to pursue university study, particularly in the field of medicine. The program takes its name from the Hebrew for “peace” and Eora for “friend” or “comrade”. It certainly represents a unique friendship between these two New South Wales communities—the Jewish and Aboriginal communities. It provides residential scholarships to Indigenous students at the University of New South Wales’ Shalom College, the Jewish residential college.

Currently, the Western NSW Local Health District has already agreed to sponsor an annual scholarship joining a number of other groups such as foundations, corporations, individual donors and groups of donors.

The program has been successful in its goal to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through higher education and by increasing the number of Indigenous professionals, especially in the critical area of Indigenous health. It was co-founded in 2005 by Ms Ilona Lee, AM, and Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver, AM. 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.

The program’s first graduate was Dr Beth Kervin in 2009.  As of July this year, there have been 41 graduates, including 23 doctors, one optometrist, one exercise physiologist and one social worker.

Currently, there are 23 Shalom Gamarada students living at Shalom College and nine of them are studying medicine. They are students primarily studying medicine, but there are also students studying in the fields of social work, law and engineering. In total, 94 Indigenous students have benefitted from the program in the past 13 years.

The program has a completion rate of more than 70 per cent – compared to an average university completion rate of 47 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander students in Australia.

Walt Secord said a Foley Government would provide $480,000 over four years to fund the scholarships – at $20,000 per student per year.

He added :“I have been supporting this program for a number of years and it is a pleasure to announce that a Foley Labor Government will support six more scholarships.

I want to be a future Health Minister who provides practical and tangible programs which close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

As a young bi-cultural man growing up on a First Nation settlement in southern Canada, I know first-hand the challenges these students face when they move away from their communities and attend university.”

In NSW, there are 15 local health districts. Those likely to provide students for the scholarships will come from: Far West LHD; Western Sydney LHD; South Western Sydney LHD; Hunter-New England LHD; Northern NSW LHD: and Southern NSW LHD. The final locations would be determined in conjunction with the geographical locations of the nominating students.

David Harris commented:  “Make no mistake, Shalom Gamarada changes lives. It provides practical support to Indigenous students who want to become doctors.”

Federal Department of Health data shows that there are more than 86,000 medical practitioners in Australia and there are about 270 who identify as Indigenous. A simple calculation shows that this program has helped nearly 10 per cent of all of Australia’s indigenous doctors.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the funding from the LHD will support an Aboriginal medical student from the region to live at the Shalom residential College while pursuing their medical studies at the University of NSW.

The partnership will support up to two students at any given time, providing support over five years of training. Upon graduation, the students will return to the west for a 12-month internship.

“We hope this support will allow a future doctor to come from the west, return thereupon graduation and even further their career in the west,” Mr Hazzard said.

The Shalom Gamarada program has supported 23 medical students since 2009 and several have had placements at Dubbo Hospital.

Mr Hazzard thanked Dubbo Hospital renal specialists Dr Colin McClintock and Dr Jennifer Fiore-Chapman for their work in developing the new scholarship.

“They both see first-hand every day the health issues of Aboriginal people in Western NSW,” he said.

“Their innovative response with this program is one reason why Dubbo Hospital has a great reputation as a pivotal regional health care provider.”

David Spears, director of the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Residential Scholarship Program, said there are at least 20 Indigenous students at the college each year and every one of them was a role model for the next generation of student residents.

“Few of our students and graduates have come from “learning communities”. They are often the first among their families and friends to attend university and yet they graduate achieving Credits, Distinctions and High Distinctions along with the other students,” Mr Spears said.

“Which goes to prove that, given the opportunity, there is no reason young Indigenous people can’t make it into the medical – and other – professions.”

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