Jewish doctor tends outback Aborigines – new biography

October 20, 2009 by Michael Misrachi
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Encounters@Shalom and the Sydney Jewish Writers’ Festival hosted the Sydney launch of Howard Goldenberg’s second book, Raft, at the Eric Caspary Learning Centre, Shalom College.

Jenny Hillman and Suzie Spira share a word withHoward Goldenberg

Jenny Hillman and Suzie Spira share a word withHoward Goldenberg

ABC broadcaster and writer Phillip Adams, who revealed his recently-discovered Jewish heritage, interviewed the Melbourne-based author, who read excerpts from his critically-acclaimed book. Raft is a collection of unnerving true stories that relate the author’s experiences as a doctor in remote Aboriginal communities and inside an outback prison. Over a period of 18 years Goldenberg, a middle-aged Orthodox Jew, made over fifty working visits as a relieving doctor for Aboriginal communities in outback Australia. On these visits he observed and recorded the lives of the people he met and treated. The result is a poignant and beautifully written book.

Raft describes a dehydrated baby whose mother gambles away money for food; Zachariah, whose infected elbow hasn’t healed for five years; an old lady who receives a gashed head while fending off her thieving husband; and Ninnigur, one of the “Strong Women” whose tireless work helps women bring babies to term safely and to protect the next generation from malnutrition and disease. Interweaving the personal and the political, Goldenberg elaborated on the challenges of health care provision in remote communities, issues of dispossession, Jewish connections with Aboriginal communities, and his experience of the Federal Government Intervention. Among the audience were eight Aboriginal medical students who are recipients of the Shalom Gamarada Scholarship.

Phillip Adams and Howard Goldenberg discuss 'Raft'

Phillip Adams and Howard Goldenberg discuss 'Raft'

Each received a signed copy of Raft and were acknowledged for their future role in Aboriginal health and wellbeing. Program Coordinator Michael Misrachi praised the book for personalising the realities of Aboriginal communities, of which so many Australians are unaware, and commended the book as “one which every household should have”.

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